It is hard, through the din of fresh voices and faces, to glean the true talents rising through the ranks of modern country music. It isn’t your father’s genre anymore – that much is apparent. While many of the songwriting formulas remain valid and intact, a new generation of performers has learned how incorporate the posturing commonly found in rock music without overly diluting the guiding impulse powering the music. Authenticity is the name of the game, as ever before. Listening to a performer like Cody Webb for the first time is a primer for what authenticity sounds like from the genre’s youngest and brightest talents. The six songs on his debut effort are well-rounded and musically adept affairs never lacking for high points or entertaining turns. The center of the album, however, is always Webb’s voice, guitar, and his command over the melodic elements defining each track.
The EP kicks off with “More Than a Little”, a slinky guitar-fueled romp that launches Webb’s self titled debut off in excellent fashion. Webb has a wonderfully relaxed vocal style that benefits the opener tremendously – he never oversteps the song’s borders or attempts biting off anymore than he can chew. The resulting effect gives the start the feeling of a gently confident ascent. The ascent transforms into a full on blast with the EP’s second song, “She Ain’t Good”. Webb revels in the song’s not so subtle shadings of humor, but he once again never strains too hard thus rendering the rather obvious elements hamfisted and overwrought. The third song, “My My My Girl”, is the self-titled effort’s earliest high point. The atmospheric rendering has much more deliberation than earlier efforts and carefully unfolds over its brief duration, but much of the same energy defining the earlier and later songs comes through in this more meditative musical turn.
“Love Me Like I’m Gone” is much more of a stomper than the earlier song “She Ain’t Good”, but like that track, it alternates its rock influences with solidly country music moves. The lyrics exhibit much of the same cleverness in full evidence on the album’s other material, but the key to their success is how Webb delivers the lyric with just the right amount of style and sophistication. “Nothin’ on You” has uncommon delicacy for the EP. Webb’s phrasing is some of his best on the release and he makes great use of some surprising imagery. The final song, “Better at Night”, embraces the full on anthemic potential of Webb’s material and it lands with marvelous force. It brings the release to an end on a memorably thunderous note.
Cody Webb is going to continue his steady climb out of the reach of his inferiors. While many peers are able entertainers, Webb is that and all the more. He tackles the songwriting with an untamable spirit that doesn’t merely please the ears, but moves the spirit as well. The half dozen songs on this self-titled debut will end up marking an important moment in Webb’s career – the first quantifiable moment when his voice rose above the din.
9 out of 10 stars.