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Music Review: Tommy Webb – Heartland

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The term ‘Americana’ has come to encompass a broad swath of roots-based music. Bluegrass is an integral element, though, and Tommy Webb, who hails from Kentucky (usually considered the birthplace of Bluegrass), delivers a fine collection that draws on musical tradition while addressing very real and very current concerns afflicting the American Heartland.

The other thing about bluegrass music, of course, is that it’s not a commercial proposition. Riches are rarely forthcoming, so a performer’s passion is pretty much a given. Webb wears his heart on his sleeve here, whether he’s covering classics (“River Of Jordan,” “Little Sadie”) or delivering his own passionate plea on behalf of America’s farmers via the title track.

Webb, who contributes guitar and banjo in addition to his slightly nasal vocals, wrote a handful of the tunes here, covering happiness (“Everything You Do”), hearbreak (“What You Weren’t Thinking Of”), faith (“Fall Upon Him”), and bluegrass itself ("If It Weren’t For Bluegrass Music (I’d Go Crazy)”) in addition to the plight of the land and those who work it.

Additional covers range from “Teardrop Inn” (cheatin’) to “No Room Inside Your Heart,” “Something In My Heart,” and “She Told Me,” all dealing with the timeless topic of unrequited love. Ricky Skaggs’ “A Hard Row To Hoe” again examines the hardships facing family farms, while “Good Day To Run” dreams of chucking it all in a desperate dash for freedom from care and worry. Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep” provides a fitting closer as Webb and company indulge in some dazzling fretwork that features intuitive interplay from all concerned.

Webb’s band is augmented here by guest and producer Ron Stewart, who contributes fiddle throughout as well as a variety of strings on “River Of Jordan.” Names aren’t nationally known but everyone performs with instrumental aplomb, all joining in on harmony vocals to excellent effect.

Bluegrass remains a relatively small sub-genre within the catch-all category of Americana. Judging by Tommy Webb’s Heartland, though, it’s as close to the soul and the soil of the nation as music can be. It’s music as unpretentious as an old barn, as real and as honest as a bountiful crop and the dirt it comes from.

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About John Taylor

  • Brian Smith

    Tommy Webb is fake he never uses his real band to record, so when you buy their CD then go listen to them live you are wondering what in the world happen. As far as the tina song is concerned listen to the CoalTown version the proof is in the pudding! tommy should have left that song be.

  • Bruce Reichenbach

    Tommy Webb is anything BUT FAKE!! I have every CD he’s recorded and have had the pleasure of attending many of their live shows. Last year I saw them twice in Ohio and once in Kendallville, IN. I’ve only been able to catch one of their live shows this year and I have to say it was “AWESOME”! Being right after the release of their new CD “Heartland”. As usual they sounded every bit if not better than they do on the CD. I have the new CD and it plainly tells you that the only song that Ron Stewart is playing on is “River of Jordan” and his wife, Sherri, sings high baritone on “She Told Me So”. I think that perhaps people are assuming just because Ron Stewart produced it that he also took part in playing/singing of the entire CD. Tommy Webb and his band are perfectly capable of “BRINGING IT” whether it be studio or stage, they are all fantastic pickers and singers!!
    As far as Coaltown and the “Tina” song Brian, I have heard it, and depending on which one of Coaltown’s MANY attempts at recording it you are talking about, well, in my opinion, neither of them are much! I suppose that is why we are talking about Tommy Webb recording it on a Major label and Coaltown is still “swinging in the wind” on NO label at all. Wow! I never realized how transparent it was to spot someone from Knott County online until you start reading something one of them has written! Then all the illiteracy begins to rear its ignorance and BAM! the lights turn on and there in the midst is a NEON sign flashing “KNOTT COUNTY”!

  • John Leslie / Kermit WV

    Tommy Webb is a good singer, but I must agree with Mr. Brian,
    “Tina at the teardrop Inn” was not his style at all

  • Alyssa Fontana/Crum WV

    The Tommy Webb Band is AWESOME! I have to agree with Mr. Bruce! “The Tina” song may be a little out of character for Tommy but I think he does a superb job at breathing new life into the song. Although Tommy has reached outside his “comfort zone” by recording “Tina at the Teardrop Inn” He shows amazing “range” by singing it in a “higher key” than Coaltown or even Fastlane, and in my opinion he pulls it off “effortlessly”! What baffles me is why the focus seems to be lended only to this one song *Teardrop Inn*. There are 13 more tracks on this CD that make for some great listening both instrumentally and vocally and deserve much notoriety. “Two Thumps Up” to The Tommy Webb Band for yet another FANTASTIC album!!!

  • carla

    THE TOMMY WEBB BAND ARE THE BEST BLUEGRASS SINGER OUT THEIR..AS FOR THE TEAR DROP IN SONG ..I THINK HE DID A VERY GOOD JOB ON IT.I GIVE HIM A 10.HES THE BEST.CANT WAIT TO SEE THEM AGAIN..

  • Ashley Taylor

    Seems someone on here didn’t read “Personal attacks are NOT allowed” as this is obvious personal jealousy. I have seen Tommy Webb perform numerous times and they are fantastic. Their album is also extremely good and the critics agree!

  • Sammy3 – Rural Rhythm

    I’m Looking at the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey and Teardrop Inn is #14 on the November 2009 chart & #12 on the Album Chart. So what are you talking about and why do you feel the need to make CoalTown look bad? I think the last thing Josh and CoalTown wants, is fans talking bad about other Rural Rhythm Artists. Send me your Cd so I can set the bar for Real Music! Tommy Webb and his band are very good friends of Rural Rhythm Records!

    Please feel free to call me anytime Brian and let me know when that Cd is coming.

    Sammy3