Shooting From The Hip: TK Webb’s Visions Bolster Ancestor

—by , September 30, 2008

Presumably on a whim, singer-guitarist TK Webb came to New York City looking for exposure. But whether the Kansas City, Missouri, native really landed in the Big Apple due to “lack of a better idea” or just because he sought to be a part of its vital music scene could be debated. What is known is the promising Midwesterner originally performed solo acoustic sets at small Brooklyn lofts but soon found himself “surrounded by bland half-baked folk acts.”

Shortly thereafter, the burgeoning Webb threw together some initial four-track demos for someone working at Vice Magazine who failed to launch the record label she intended to inaugurate. Those inauspicious tracks were then assembled as The Ungodly Hours, a self-released debut that’d lead to the two-tracked-to-one-inch-tape sessions for KCK, a forlorn homage to Kansas City, Kansas, done in a proper studio over a long weekend. Signed to ambitious boutique label, The Social Registry, Webb would go on to sell a few thousand copies of KCK to loyal followers.

Exploring the options of working with a fulltime band, Webb drafted Blood On The Wall vocalist-bassist Courtney Shanks and keyboardist Jared Eggers for his next undertaking, ‘07s Phantom Parade, receiving critical praise for its drowsy stoner Blues mantras. Given a chance to constructively collaborate, Webb quickly blew off his one-man band days when finding the right audience wasn’t always easy to locate. Though desolate and less dynamic than his forthcoming project with a stable group of musicians, Phantom Parade found the young troubadour plying formative folk-rooted inspiration to ten originals. Webb had inherited many traditional Delta Blues recordings during his late teens and these historic documents greatly inform his six-string technique.

He admits, “Stuff like that struck close to the bone. As a guitar player, I thought I could naturally play the Blues, which isn’t really that normal for a weird white kid from the suburbs, but…”

Many of Phantom Parade’s best moments rely on the coffeehouse folk inflections of veteran outré stylists such as cigarette-stained baritone John Prine and warbled crooner Tom Waits. Then again, the ponderous dual guitar clang of “Which Witch” replicates early Velvet Underground via “Heroin.” In the same ‘vain,’ the slower “You Got Faded” tones down the VU beat and relies on a single honey-dripped guitar figure for a hazier narcotic trip. Webb eventually breaks out a harmonica to give a proper archaic feel to the train-whistled Depression Era Blues redux, “Wet Eye’d Morn.”

True, Webb’s primordial indoctrination to the Blues affects the majority of his compositional undertakings. But he didn’t quite come out of the cradle singing gritty Leadbelly standards or faithful Jordanaires spirituals. Though his mother listened to Elvis Presley and Gospel, he spurned those lofty musical beacons as an impressionable pre-teen.

“At the time, I thought that shit was hideous. Obviously, that’s not how I feel about it now.” He continues, “Then, my big brother gave me a bunch of Led Zeppelin tapes and we pilfered this Hammer Of The Gods Zeppelin story from my buddy’s weird junkie sister. I could barley read at age nine. But that shit was rad. I started playing guitar with neighborhood kids.”

Coming back even stronger on ‘08s Ancestor, and supplanted with his first fulltime band, TK Webb & The Visions upped the energy level, tightened the crisply rendered arrangements, and forged a well designed cryptic model. Gathering ex-Love As Laughter guitarist Brian Hale, bassist Jordan Gable, and drummer Ben Mc Connell (replaced by Nic Gonzalez, a trailer-parked West Virginian who’d handling chores for Philly-DC outfits), Webb has now permanently left behind Brooklyn’s self-righteous neo-folk ghetto.

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