Faye Webster’s last two releases had a DIY quality to them. Their faux country/folk production was straightforward and even had a self-effacing presence as if one shouldn’t take the music too seriously. This modesty served the records well and let Webster’s voice and songwriting be the primary focus.
The most surprising thing about Webster’s new record, Car Therapy Sessions, is its lush production. The singer-songwriter has redone four songs from her last two records and one new one (the title track) with a 24-piece ensemble. Their contribution adds a grandeur to the lyrics, which at times seem more like soliloquies or dialogue than music. The orchestra purposely aims for the beautiful.
The thing is, Webster’s lyrics don’t always stand up to careful attention. They may be honest but can be clumsy and too vague. For example, on “Jonny” (originally on her first album, 2019’s Atlanta Millionaires Club, she sings about a past love affair that never seemed to launch. Was the problem Jonny or her? She doesn’t know, nor does she clue the listener in on the details. Webster uses the metaphor of painting a white wall to stand for their relationship. That’s too nebulous. What relationship doesn’t begin with the potential of a blank slate?
On Atlanta Millionaires Club, Webster placed “Jonny” and its companion piece “Jonny (Reprise)” several cuts apart. Here on the EP Car Therapy Sessions, she puts them together with an instrumental link and calls it “Suite-Jonny”. The instrumentation soothes the melancholy of the vocals. The song can be lovely except for the few times Webster’s histrionics overwhelm the background.
Other times, Webster gets the tone just right. Her vocals on “Cheers (To You & Me)” from 2021’s I Know I’m Funny, Ha Ha fit the bright orchestration with its sweeping swings and resounding horns. The singer is happy and understands she is fortunate. Webster’s voice is appropriately playful and sweet.
The one new song, “Car Therapy”, falls somewhere between. There is an airiness to the instrumentation. The song’s contents are unclear. I am not sure what Webster means by “Car Therapy”, but I associate it with someone who needs to take a long drive to clear their head. What Webster refers to is unclear, but something heavier than that definition is implied. The lyrics again are vague. She uses “plastic flowers” to symbolize self-care (or the inability to care for herself), but it is unclear if she means something more profound. One could also interpret “Car Therapy” as something much heavier. Could this be a cancer treatment or addiction counseling, or something else? The ambiguity seems accidental rather than purposeful, as the musical arrangement is quite lovely and does not imply irony.
Webster sings animatedly. She frequently harmonizes with the instruments or lets them adorn the proceedings, such as when a piano arpeggio or lilting flute solo takes center stage while she stays silent. “Car Therapy” has hints of aural butterflies and rainbows, mountain views, and big skies, even though the lyrics have one sitting in a car in the driveway. This mix keeps things interesting. One can find delight in a myriad of mundane experiences. The EP proves this.