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Tonal brilliance and sublime musicianship
Mary Webb launched her new album at The Wesley Anne, the perfect inner-city venue for modern folk. South Australia has bragging rights to Mary Webb. Pic courtesy of Mary Webb.
The Wesley Anne, in Melbourne's arts-funky High Street, hosted the album launch of Mary Webb's new album, Love Like Planets on Saturday March 17th. 'Exquisite' is the word that comes to mind: Mary's emotive musicianship was recognised and acclaimed by an educated, folk-savvy audience. It is rare to find a musician with such a well-rounded and polished set of skills, as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. In all that she writes, sings, plays and performs, Mary Webb is all about tone.
Webb's signature smooth, rich and delicate tones held dynamic interest throughout both show and brands her new album, Love Like Planets.
Tone is not a light-weight compliment: Mary's songs achieve subtle beauty with her original and balanced lyrical cadences. Her vocal melodies converse with guitar counter-melody, hits and highlights. She has gently pushed this musical dialogue and has found ways to vocally emulate the guitar's instrumental textures and its plucked rhythms. Mary is an accomplished young Australian singer-songwriter whose work is bound to impress international legends of this genre.
Webb's compositions are so well crafted and sung with such vulnerability and truth, that audiences listened intently and participated in her musical stories. Every song has a message, inspiration, reflection and purpose. Mary personifies archetypal story-telling from the folk-music tradition: she may just become Australia's answer to Canadian legends KD Lang and Joni Mitchell. Mary Webb is both poet, and musician.
Mary paints emotion into her musical landscape with narrative detail, instrumentation, vocal discipline and precise, accompaniment choices. Her style has a definite 'lament', but this launch included the more upbeat 'The Drunken Rider', as well as other tunes from previous works. She creates optimism through percussive rhythms. 'Crepuscule' plastered the room with such twilight melancholy that we were transported back in time to the streets of Melbourne where Mary contemplated love and was inspired to write the song.
At the album launch, we became lost in Mary's compositional mind. Musicianship and trademark compositional flair should skyrocket album sales.
Love Like Planets (Halcro Records) is a collection of very personal experiences of relationships: there is bravery, heartbreak, recovery and deep, intimate, multi-faceted love. Love Like Planets is a very feminine treatise which Mary honoured with her stage-grace. Webb has an almost shy, understated performance style, which is delightful because it is so 'unDiva'. Her performance reflects her persona, which reflects her music- which reflects the woman. Mary radiates authenticity and we willingly enter her world.
With exposure, Mary Webb will be one of Australia's premier singer-songwriters and solo musicians. Romantic-lament is a Love Like Planets style-feature. Pic courtesy of Mary Webb.
Explanatory interludes between numbers were soft and understated, often followed by long guitar introductions that were spellbinding. Mary created a sophisticated lounge-room vibe that was electrified by her sublime musicianship.
Song melodies are through voice alone but Webb's own guitar accompaniment becomes a second vocalist which deepens emotional sub-text.
Mary sits so comfortably within each chord and the silences in-between that it is clear that she has grown-up surrounded by music. 'The Lone Saxophone' showcases Mary as a first-rate guitarist: I imagine the hours she has spent in her bedroom, playing and seeking solace in her instrument so that she has become confident to experiment and express her own heart, through its trusted strings. Mary has a loving relationship with her guitar and it was a privilege to hear this play out. The beauty and control of her vocal tones is obvious, but cradled in her hands, her guitar becomes a soundscape to infinity.
Mary and her guitar are perfect tonal partners. Just as partners finish each other's sentences, her own voice resonates its unique timbre.
Blessed with perfect pitch and natural timing, Mary Webb breaks notes and creates unexpected intervals that enrich the soundscape and layers meaning. 'Gin' which is not on the album but a favourite with Webb's followers, re-affirmed our faith in Mary the poet. Her vocal performance in this song exhibited a vocal artistry and tonal affluence reminiscent of Dido.
Love Like Planets is a brilliant musical and compositional achievement that not only brands Mary Webb but also sets a standard for Australian singer-songwriters and modern folk music. 'Hold Me Now' is an outstanding track that deserves wide air-play. Australia, take notice of our own Mary Webb: grab her new album and if you do get the chance to see Mary perform live, I guarantee you will be spellbound.
To understand how to write for the guitar, and have the skill to be able to play in this way, is a part of Mary's songwriting and musical genius.
Modern Folk-Pop Soundscapes by Phia
Mary's Love Like Planets was supported by Melbourne folk-pop artist Phia, who has already achieved great acclaim at The Adelaide Fringe. Phia self-described as 'a bit rock with Indy and techno trappings', played the little-known African Marimba which inspired musical fascination. Phia has a relaxed communication-style and a gift for creating music and soundscapes (multi-tracking and loops) which framed poetic content and connected her to folk tradition. Phia has a 'new sound' that is as mellow as it is afro-rhythmic. Phia's performance turned The Wesley Anne into a 'recording studio' and took us on a musical adventure that was educative and rhythmically exciting.