After a lot of growth as both a singer and performer, James Robert Webb (JRW) has delivered what is easily his best release yet. Working with Buddy Cannon (Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson), JRW found the perfect musical collaborator. On this self-titled, baker’s dozen collection of songs, JRW’s blend of outside material and his own self and co-written songs brings which showcases at least some of Cannon’s impact beyond the producer aspect as the songs here seem like a nice blend of Chesney and Nelson’s deep catalogs of songs and themes.
Take “April May,” a song self-written by JRW. That’s a song that would’ve fit a Chesney record in years gone by and certainly wouldn’t be outta place on one in 2020 either. Quite simply, “April May” is a well-written country song with (in grand country music songwriting traditions) a clever turn of phrase. “Stealing Home” fits within the clever turn of phrase too as it talks about memories and a house that he grew up in. It is similar to “The House That Built Me” in content but it’s certainly on par with that gold standard and the melody features some beautiful fiddles from studio ace Joe Spivey along the way.
There’s one cover on the record and it’s a cover of the iconic Don Williams hit “Tulsa Time” and instead of just repeating what Williams did, JRW and Buddy Cannon have created a delightful slice of Texas Swing and there’s no doubts in my mind that the players had a blast in the studio playing this song and playing it this way. With its mix of banjos, fiddles and mid tempo grooves, “Think About It” certainly feels like a radio hit (and as of this writing it’s Top 30 on the MusicRow Country Breakout Chart). The chorus hook is strong and the message of realizing that you’re part of a world and plans and in the age of COVID-19, the message here hits home even more.
A refreshing aspect of the 13 tracks on James Robert Webb is the complete lack of songs that have anything to do with beer, pick-up trucks or field parties. James Robert Webb is a thoroughly modern album but it’s an album for people who love good, solid country music and aren’t expecting hiphop beats or those themes mentioned above. I look forward to hearing more from JRW in the future but really hope he keeps teaming up with Buddy Cannon as the results here are his best work and a record worthy of your ears and time.