Webster’s Wheel have been quietly building a nice following for themselves in the last couple of years, and in 2021, they’re making it known to the press and newfound followers that theirs isn’t a campaign of fleeting dedication. Milk & Grass, their new summer LP, has a distinct confidence to its ten songs that doesn’t exist in the content I get from one-off hit-makers as a critic; there’s something more passionate and invested in their performance here that tells me they’re the real deal. From “Swooned Up” to “Hollow Hands,” I think it’s obvious they came to shut down the competition with this set of tracks.
If there’s one thing this folky duo doesn’t really need, it’s instrumental fabrications atop the smooth guitar-vocal harmonies that comprise the whole of “Country Peepers,” “Growin’,” or “Day Like Today,” and thus, we find none in any of the aforementioned songs (nor anywhere else in this LP). From top to bottom, you won’t hear anything other than straight troubadour-style crooning and marvelously unfiltered guitar play in Milk & Grass, which is honestly the precise formula Webster’s Wheel need to utilize when developing anything they plan on putting their name on.
The production quality this record enjoys is incredibly crisp but not invasive nor sparkling with polish; i.e. if you’re looking for an electric edge running down the center of the bucolic backdrop here, you’re going to come up empty-handed. I for one can see these two singers being just as adept in front of a full raucous band as they are in this cut and dry setting, but because they’re opting for the fluff-free template, there’s no debating their authenticity as vocalists nor as collaborators. They flesh out everything when they’re playing together, whether the venue is a recording studio or a crowded concert hall.
“Dogs Don’t Cry,” “Love Ye One Another,” and the title track probably have the most live potential of any songs here, but honestly I think everything about the sound Webster’s Wheel have made their own would fit well before an audience of eager folk aficionados. Harmonies as heavenly as those in “People Around” and “Swooned Up” could only feel more inviting in person, and until I get the chance to verify this for myself, the unpolluted audio they’re presenting us with in Milk & Grass gives us a good idea what we can all look forward to.
I’m really intrigued by the cohesiveness of the Webster’s Wheel musical profile, but rather than encouraging us to get hung up on the details that make up their sound, this new album bearing their name in the byline asks for us to sit back, relax, and enjoy their two-person show. Milk & Grass isn’t a record that you have to think about when it’s playing – you just have to give it a chance to light up a beautiful afternoon beneath the summer sun and these players take care of the rest. Webster’s Wheel is one heck of a quality folk act, and if you hear someone say otherwise, they probably haven’t heard this new LP.
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