Dan Webster is a singer/songwriter/guitarist with an eclectic taste in musical styles which he employs with great skill on his third album, The Tin Man.
The record opens with an impassioned ballad, ‘Dancers’. There’s lots going with a foundation of cello, bass and drums supporting Dan’s voice and guitar. It’s a strong voice, nothing fashionably ethereal but he can crack it painfully if he needs to and holler if that’s called for. After one track you’ve got his measure, right? Wrong!
Next up is ‘Elvis’, a sparkling piece of rockabilly with electric guitar by Lloyd Massingham. The sound of it raises a smile and then you pay attention to the lyrics. “Manufactured pop commercial toss, all this stuff I’m asked for” – this is the bitter lament of a real musician in an age of synthetic pap. That should raise a cheer. ‘Number 17’ combines elements of the preceding songs. It’s a nostalgic song of separation with big strings and unexpectedly busy drums by Yom Hardy giving it an odd feeling of urgency. In fact, Hardy’s drums are a big feature of the album.
Then – a traditional song, ‘British Man Of War’. Where did that come from? It’s an interesting choice given that it dates from one of the more shameful episodes in British history, the Opium Wars, a broken token ballad which could be terribly gung-ho except that Dan downplays that aspect of the story and concentrates on the girl waving goodbye to her sailor boy. Dan brings him home with a medley of ‘Spanish Ladies/When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ again downplaying the death and mutilation of sea battles.
The album closes with the tragic ‘Goodbye’ which would be a good finish, if something of a downer, but he grins, picks up his electric and blasts out a chunk of infectious rock’n’roll called ‘Gin’. That’s better. There should be more like Dan Webster around.
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A live version of ‘British Man Of War’: