Bry Webb's 'Run with Me' Is Both Conclusion and Rebirth

BY Eric HillPublished Nov 3, 2023

Sometimes people disappear gradually. Archival evidence of their being remains, standing in for their actual presence, but when (or if) they actually return, you're flabbergasted that it's been a decade. Such is the case with Bry Webb, whose last album, Free Will, was released back in 2014, and whose last half decade has been spent completely away from playing music. The circumstances of his return, and the ones through which he has crafted Run with Me, are personal and painful and suffused in the fabric of his long-awaited homecoming.

Apologies and explanations, deep truths both plainly spoken and sometimes given poetic extension within metaphor and character, Webb's songs tackle the traps of responsibility and identity at every turn. Starting gently with the brief instrumental "Webb" — which slots behind Provider's "Asa" and Free Will's "Fletcher" to complete his daughter's name — Webb closes a trilogy more than 10 years in the making. The album really starts moving with "I Can't See You," a deep country-tinged waltz about love and absence that speaks its truth as directly as anything Webb ever offered.

Run with Me is full of musical histories, returning to those families made through song — "Thunder Bay" is a track originally written for Montreal-based side project the Harbourcoats, featuring Michael Feuerstack and others, that had fallen away undocumented until now; Webb's best known project, the Constantines, have a brief reunion on "Goodbye," dusting off the electric sound of triumph within despair for a few moments of ecstatic renewal, as Webb exclaims, "I'm through with all the rage / Now watch the light pour out of me."

 "What I Do" is in many ways the centrepiece of the album. It's a deliberately slow and simple interrogation set to stark acoustic guitar, grappling with the definitions of self through work and relationships and the responsibilities both require. It's the soundtrack to wee-hour worries, and Webb finds resolution through his daughter's uncomplicated inspiration and, ironically, through simply writing and singing his worried song.

Webb tucks the album in with "She Is Here," a lullaby accompanied only by the rhythm of an ultrasound of his daughter's heartbeat. Within the space lives a simplicity that communicates an awareness of the universe, the enormity we sometimes forget is right in front of us. As returns go, Run with Me is both summary and rebirth; a taking of stock, choosing the things best suited to carry with us as we move forward. 
(Idée Fixe Records)

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