LIVE REVIEW: Webb Wilder, Serious Sam Barrett @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle (19.04.16) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Webb Wilder by David McClister © 2015

Serious Sam Barrett is a skateboarder from Leeds who plays country music, and however incongruous that might sound, he actually makes the whole thing work by having a pile of songs that are by turns nostalgic, touching and humourous. His vintage 12-string acoustic is relentlessly fingerpicked into jewelled shards, while he croons about love lost and regained, his grandfather’s penchant for shotguns and, inevitably, gallons of bourbon.

Initial disappointment that Webb Wilder would be without his usual superb band tonight – this is in fact his first ever solo show outside the US – fades when it becomes apparent he has more than enough personality by himself to fill the room.  Despite struggling with the tuning on his loaned Gibson Emmylou Harris acoustic guitar, he gives what amounts to a masterclass in roots, blues and country music, interspersed with anecdotes about his upbringing amongst relatives in the Deep South whose unconventional turn of phrase has inspired more than a few of his songs. A dry sense of humour is rarely far from the surface of his originals, as on Elvis Is The King, worth seeking out online for its particularly chucklesome fake vintage video. Wilder is a true troubadour, a unique, quirky personality whose backstory is his whole story, and in his tales of Merle Travis, Dan Penn and Roy Rogers, we catch a glimpse of America when it was something worth believing in. In his caustic summary of how Nashville has transformed from a genuine music town to a theme park caricature of itself, I cannot do better than to leave you with the words of the man himself: “Now that there’s no music industry, everybody wants to be in it.” Amen to that.


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