Tom & Barb Webber

Traveler's Lullaby

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The notion of what folk music would appear like to listeners at the beginning of a millennium is a tough one to ponder, but not because one actually has to wonder about its sound. If it's truly a music of the folk, as Carl Sandburg was so fond of saying, it will hopefully take on many faces and explore the many sonorities that can be created; it will speak to people and get them to react enough to contribute to the discussion. Therefore, its aim -- music made for the purpose of being shared, commented upon, and passed down the line -- will hopefully remain the same. To that end, the music on Traveler's Lullaby -- while it doesn't contain a version of "Goodnight Irene" -- is truly folk music. This is music made by a husband and wife team with a friend on guitar, recorded live in the studio for the simple purpose of reflecting not only their own concerns, but those of their family and community, as well as the world, and putting those concerns out there for comment. The simple architecture of the songs allows maximum space for emotional transference; most are lined exclusively with acoustic guitars and an occasional bass and drum kit. Most all of them are full of glorious three-part harmonies. Most of the tracks were written by Barb Webber and were sketched out by husband Tom, who is a musical director, while guitarist Gregg Lindsay is, simply, the king of strings who sings a mean tenor harmony. The set opens with "This Heart of Mine Deserves More," a tough lyric that relates empathy from the protagonist to a close confidante that she's experienced the same traumatic circumstances. As the singers come in close to protect Webber's voice and guitars whirl around her, every word comes off as a tough, redemptive truth. The disc's most powerful song is its third track, "Something Stole My Mama's Mind," a brutally honest song about the transformative, deadly, and soul-wrenching power of Alzheimer's disease. The harmonies sound like a battle cry and the tune sounds like an old-time gospel number wrapped around a hillbilly drinking anthem. It's a harrowing, instructive tome that is perhaps the first tune to come down the pipe that talks about this malady honestly. Other noteworthy songs glistened with harmonicas and fiddles are "Rose Go Round," the poetically inspiring "Winds of Saint Jude," the folk song as prayer that is "Wounded Kingdom," and the haunting and ethereal call home of "Traveler's Lullaby." This is an auspicious debut; it shows the naïveté of the recording studio that allows things to come through that in the digital world would normally never have made it to the final mix. Ms. Weber's writing is simple, yet very refined; it comes to the point and never looks in the mirror at itself (how refreshing). It comes across like the neighbor next door relating something out of her own life for the purpose of conversation and edification. This is truly a band who plays folk music. God knows we could use a few more of them.

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