Eastern Kentucky’s Tommy Webb has long been a favorite of bluegrass fans throughout that region, with several hits over the years grabbing the attention of the national bluegrass audience. Songs like If It Weren’t for Bluegrass Music (I’d Go Crazy) and Teardrop Inn have garnered Webb quite a bit of radio play. His latest album for Kindred Records, Bluegrass Boys, has a number of songs with the potential to do the same.
The title track tells of the favorite pastime of a group of guys who like to get together and pick whenever the opportunity arises: “We like to howl at the moon on a Saturday night at the bluegrass opry barn, singing them songs by Bill Monroe, Stanleys, and the King of them all…” They’re not touring the country, but it doesn’t matter as long as they’re having fun. The song has a nice groove and Webb seems like he’s having a good time singing. Rocks and Roses has a similar musical vibe, sharing the cute story of two neighbors who went from throwing rocks at each other as children to falling in love as teenagers, set to a snazzy mandolin melody.
Doing Her Wrong is a fine, fiddle-guided country cheating number. Webb’s smooth lead vocals have a bit of hesitancy in them that fits the song’s lyrics well, as the singer questions crossing the line and hurting a woman who has stood by him through thick and thin. She’s Between the Two of Us Again is a different take on heartbreak, sharing the pain of a father who worries about hurting his daughter as he and the child’s mother fail to make it work. It’s another nicely-performed song, again relying on fiddle to bring a tear to the listener’s eye.
Mary Jane is a catchy, grassy number about a man pining for a woman who’s never even noticed him. The lyrics are more sweet than yearning: “She didn’t even notice me, but why should I complain? I couldn’t find the nerve to speak in front of Mary Jane.” A more earnest take on love can be found in I Depend on You. The singer honors a wife who never lets him down and takes care of both him and the children without batting an eye, singing “We’ve got dreams and they’re gonna come true, until then I depend on you.” The straightforward music and singing match the lyrics’ tone well.
It wouldn’t be a traditional-leaning bluegrass album without a Gospel song or two, and Webb doesn’t disappoint. He tackles Honey in the Rock with ease, throwing in a bit of clawhammer banjo for good measure and creating a nice uptempo rhythm. If We Believe is one of the album’s best tracks, a fine showcase of both the musical and vocal sides, with Webb pouring plenty of conviction into his singing.
Bluegrass Boys was produced by Ron Stewart, and there are plenty of his bluegrass sensibilities here – well-played music in the modern traditional style (with Stewart playing several instruments on a number of the songs), a bit of country flair, and a crisp rhythm section. However, the album puts Webb front and center, and he proves up to the challenge. His vocals are distinctive and as such, his songs should stand out from much of the other modern traditional fare on today’s radio. He wrote or co-wrote the majority of the songs here, and they’re fresh and well-written. Long-time fans and new listeners alike shouldn’t be disappointed.