PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Bry Webb: Provider

The debut disc from the Constantines’ frontman Bry Webb is a stunning and revealing record full of worldly insight, and leaves you begging for more.

Bry Webb


Label: Idée Fixe
US Release Date: 2011-11-22
UK Release Date: 2011-11-22

The debut solo album from the Constantines’ frontman Bry Webb, Provider, might come as a bit of a shock to long-time fans of the lauded Canadian indie rock group, which has either broken up or gone on hiatus, depending upon who you talk to. You won’t hear the Fugazi-meets-Springsteen sound that the Constantines were (are?) known to mine on Provider. Instead, you get some very slow and sadly beautiful songs played in a bluesy/country style. It’s about as radical a departure you could expect, something that Mark Kozelek might put together. However, Provider, well, provides a stunning background soundtrack of subtle ambience and skilled musicianship that proves that Webb can do other things than write soaring indie rock anthems, and fine ones at that. Provider is strikingly different territory, and those who feel inclined to come along for the ride will find an album that is richly textured, nuanced, extremely mature and wise beyond its years for a musician best known for simply rocking out.

The album opens with "Asa", which is a lullaby to the singer’s newborn son, a song that utterly shimmers with its ghostly bluesy guitar and Webb’s rich baritone voice lilting above this quite simple but effective arrangement. It is stark and astoundingly gorgeous, a healing meditation on the love one man has for his offspring. It’s the sort of song that makes you want to kneel before your speakers and openly weep. Here, as well as elsewhere on this stunning disc, Webb effectively illustrates that sometimes less is more, and he simply lets his voice and guitar softly carry the listener along in a transcendent state of bliss. "Rivers of Gold", meanwhile, is pure raconteur: while it is ostensibly about a miner panning for gold during the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 19th century, it is also a song that could very well be about his (former?) band: "I was working in a gold rush city," Webb explains, "I was playing in a band / We had an understanding that only we could understand / I was making a decent living in the Yukon Territory / Thinking about all those who came before me / I’m the one most free." Again, the song is successful as it leans towards sparse minimalism: it’s just Webb’s voice, an acoustic guitar gently and slowly strummed, and a pedal steel guitar offering up some tasty and shimmering licks in the background.

"Zebra", meanwhile, is another song that straddles the personal as it recounts the singer’s anxiety at becoming a father: "Zebra standing on the moon / Looking down upon the Earth / Helpless in the operating room / While the wife is giving birth." It is another low-key and soft, meditative song that is wholly universal and entirely relatable, one that swoons in its chorus with some delightful male/female harmonizing on some gentle "lie lie lie, lie la lie’s". It’s easy to just simply lie back with your eyes open and arms crossed against the back of your head and gently daydream to. Then there’s the stark and soaring "Undertaker", which is a track with built upon a humourous comment Webb’s grandmother made about the singer’s disposition. The song is anything but funny, as the singer-songwriter wonders about the effects of his relative fame on those that he knows. The cut is bolstered by a brooding brass section rubbing effectively against the plaintive acoustic guitar, and is ultimately rousing and triumphant. "Get Up You in Peace" follows as an uplifting minor key spiritual with glorious harmonies in its chorus, and is just as memorable as the tracks that preceded it. These first five songs make up a wholly satisfying and consistent opening salvo, one that asserts the power and transcendence of the author’s grasp and read on the material.

"Ex-Punks", which opens the second half of the nine-song disc, is a slight but noticeable shift in approach. It is the only song on the record that has a kick-drum beat and shakers providing percussion, and the bluesy guitar and thudding bassline, as well as some of the lyricism ("Let hungry corrupt the memory / Let them call the cops"), makes it seem like it could be a Constantines' song in another incarnation. It is hardly a misstep as it is engaging in its own right, but one gets the sense that it is a bit of a straggler on what is otherwise a well conceived album. From there, things right themselves back towards the overall thematic of the album: "Persistent Spirit" is a countrified number with pedal steel that could be a Wilco ballad from early years yore. "Lowlife" follows in the same drunkenly country vibe and feel. Finally, "Viva" is a lilting finely plucked gem that sounds as though it were played on a harp.

In overall style, Provider is a deeply personal and resonate album. It’s the sort of thing that you just won’t be able to get enough of, you’ll be reaching to play it all over again once it has finished, and even might wish was just a little bit longer. In some ways, the record feels like a masculine version of a Feist record, at least in its most fragile moments -- and that comparison isn’t untoward considering that Webb contributes guest vocals on Metals and is opening for Feist on her November/December 2011 Canadian tour. All that is left to be said about Provider is that if, indeed, the Constantines have been laid to rest, Webb has a solid future ahead of him as a solo balladeer. Provider is a stunning and revealing record full of worldly insight, and leaves you begging for more.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.