Home Jason's Jukebox The Chat Room: The Weber Brothers

The Chat Room: The Weber Brothers

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As the second installment of The Water Street Trilogy, In The Tangled Web reveals more of The Weber Brothers’ smorgasbord of pure, raw rock and roll delicacies captured live-off-the-floor during one long, blistering day during the summer of 2021.

Following the first installment, Wild As The Wild Dogs (released November 2022), In The Tangled Web finds Ryan Weber (bass/vocals) and Sam Weber (lead guitar), along with drummer Marcus Bowne, guitarist Emily Burgess and multi-instrumentalist Ryan “Rico” Browne, leaning more heavily on their blues influences, as evidenced by the raging Muddy Waters-inflected opening track “Top Of My List.” The scene then shifts from Mississippi to Memphis on the sultry grooving “Shake It Up,” with a side trip to Tom Waits Land on “Mostly Stable.”

However, as always, the Webers demonstrate they can’t be pigeonholed with the gloriously garage-y “Turn On Love” and “Love Yourself,” while closing the album with the hard-edged gospel of “Ante Up.” Known throughout Canada by their monicker “the baddest band in the land,” the Weber Brothers are definitely at their baddest on In The Tangled Web, displaying a chemistry that only comes from over two decades of constant touring, writing and recording.

In a brief window between lockdowns during the summer of 2021, the Webers found themselves without any gigs, but primed to record a backlog of new material. So they called on their friend and producer extraordinaire James McKenty (Blue Rodeo, Cuff The Duke, Royal Wood) with an idea—to take a day and blast through over 30 songs. James was on board and rented a building in Gore’s Landing, ON (the same location where he would record Neil Young a few weeks later) and brought his mobile setup. So far, the results speak for themselves, with the band obviously right at home with the old school recording approach and firing on all cylinders.

In many ways, The Water Street Trilogy stands as tribute to the Webers’ mentor, Ronnie Hawkins, who passed away in 2022. For those who still aren’t familiar with the Weber Brothers’ origin story, as teenagers in the late 1990s, Ryan and Sam Weber made the life-altering decision to move from their suburban Baltimore home to southern Ontario to pursue their dream of playing with Hawkins, just as their heroes in The Band had started out. In due course they earned their place as bona fide Hawks, later taking the lessons learned and applying them to their own distinctive sound.

To hear and purchase the entire Weber Brothers discography, visit their Bandcamp page.

 

The band just released the second part of the Water Street Trilogy, In The Tangled Web. It seems to have more of a bluesy vibe than its predecessor, Wild As The Wild Dogs, which seemed to have more of a vintage rock and roll sound. Is that fair to say?

Ryan: Of course it’s fair, but I’m not the best for genre placement. I never really know what to say on that, so if that’s what comes to mind for you, I’m good with it. Blues is such a steeped and storied word; if this album is more bluesy, then I’ hope it approaches worthy homage. I’d say it sounds really ‘Weber-y’ to me, whatever that means. These songs just seemed to go together well in a collection to us.

Sam: Yes, I think it’s fair to say this album has more of a blues feel. When we were putting these albums together we had to be conscious of what songs worked with each other. When you think about someone listening to an album in its entirety, you want the experience to make sense. So there are songs from Wild Dogs that wouldn’t have worked as well with songs on Tangled Web and vice versa. Tangled Web to me is a little more intense and heavy, so I guess that fits in with the bluesy vibe.

When the final instalment of The Water Street Trilogy comes out, that’ll be about 30 new songs added to your repertoire. What drives you guys to be so prolific?

Ryan: I don’t know if we look at it in that way, we just record and release songs as they come. When they are given to us, it’s only right to share them. I’m sure some of it comes from our parents; Mom always shares the goodness, and Pap definitely goes in hard. One of Ronnie Hawkins’s great lessons to us was, “practice and play every day,” and he was always pretty adamant about that. If you get that kind of lesson, then it’s a matter of showing up, of honoring that teaching. It’s not a choice then, but a duty. People do that in every field, and this is the field we’ve come up in. There is a drive to do it, that’s for sure. It’s always there, and we love it, certainly love is a major component. I thank God for the opportunity to do it, and to keep doing it. So far, it’s been a really good start.

Sam: I think it’s just the desire to write songs, arrange them and play them with the band. We’ve been doing it a long time, and I like to think we’ve reached a certain level of ability. But the beauty is, every time you write or rehearse or play live, you learn something. The other part is the sheer fun of it. I like to figure stuff out. And I like to play good music with my band.

All three of these records were recorded live off the floor in a single day. How do you look back on that experience now two years later?

Ryan: Really fondly. There were quite a few circumstances that came together for it to happen. It was COVID time, lockdown season, and we weren’t able to do too many gigs or play out live, so we really went at this like playing a live gig. In the midst of all that was going on or not going on at the time, it felt really good to just play, to rock. Then, listening back to the recording, that felt good too. We knew the feeling we had when playing the songs came through on the recording, and that is a great thing. It was a very cool day. We’ve had this lineup with Marcus, Rico, and Emily for a good while now, and playing together offers so many possibilities built up over time. And with James McKenty recording it, you know he’s gonna make it sound good.

Sam: I remember it being a very long day. We’ve never been a band that comes saying, “Let’s see what we can get done.” Our strategy is, “We’re doing it all.” I don’t know why, but that’s just in our nature. But you get so immersed in the playing, in getting a good take, that you just keep on rolling until 13 hours later you drive off and realize all you ate that day was a bagel. But overall, I’m very grateful. To have the same core band for a decade that practices and plays all the time, and James McKenty on the controls who we’ve worked with hundreds of times, it was pretty special.

With the recent death of Robbie Robertson, and the passing of your mentor, Ronnie Hawkins, in 2022, we’re beginning to lose a lot of rock and roll history. How are you guys coping with that, and has it affected your own approach to playing?

Ryan: Of course, these giants crossing the mighty river is a heavy transition. I mean, we were with Ronnie for over 20 years, so losing him made a big difference in our world. But I don’t think I’d say we’ve lost them or lost their history. Their history is cemented, and will always be here. Ronnie and Robbie touched so many people; they live on in them, they are always around. They’re monumental. Their musical influence still reverberates in so much music being made now, and as figures they remain in so many hearts. I think about Ronnie every day, he is always in my heart, and is a HUGE part of us. He’ll always be with us until we meet again. Now it’s a matter of living up to and sharing the lessons he gave us and all he taught us. If we do that, guys like Ronnie and Robbie, Levon, Richard, Rick, all the amazing Hawks we got to learn from, will keep being introduced to more people, and on and on it goes. It’s a beautiful thing, such a gift to be able to share, and that is something we take seriously. We know what a giant honour it is.

Sam: It’s always very strange and hard to lose someone. You have to kind of re-learn how to live without them. But once you take some time to heal, you realize that the only real loss is the physical one. Their music, their friendship, the experiences they shared with all of us will never go away. I’m much more emotional now when I think about it. We just did a workshop at Kitchener Blues Fest that was called Remembering Ronnie Hawkins. That’s my favorite music, hands down. But it all has more meaning now.

Like Ronnie’s song “Days Gone By” says, “Just one time, just one more time. I’d sure love to see those old friends of mine.” That’s heavy stuff.

After the final part of The Water Street Trilogy comes out, where do you see the band heading musically?

Ryan: We shall see. We always keep more up our sleeves.

Sam: I really couldn’t say right now. We’ll have a better idea after our next rehearsal!

 

JASON’S JUKEBOX PICKS

Turnpike Troubadours / A Cat In The Rain (Bossier City Records)
On their sixth album, Oklahoma’s Turnpike Troubadours come back strong after a four-year self-imposed hiatus, offering 10 new tracks that seamlessly blend southern rock with traditional Americana. Usually, bands tend to focus on one or the other, which has always set Turnpike Troubadours’ approach apart from their peers, and on A Cat In The Rain, their chemistry has produced the most stunning results yet. Whether it’s on dark-edged songs like “Mean Old Sun” and “Lucille,” or more upbeat numbers like “Brought Me” and “Chipping Mill,” the combination of electric guitars, banjo, fiddle and pedal steel drives the band’s sound, while front man Evan Felker spins tales of rural struggles. Like Son Volt’s Jay Farrar, Evan compensates for his voice’s limited range by enriching his lyrics with detailed descriptions of Southern culture most of us don’t get to experience. While at times A Cat In The Rain suffers from being a bit too streamlined, that’s a minor quibble. Between the music and Evan’s storytelling, there’s a lot to digest in A Cat In The Rain’s roots rock buffet.

Beth Bombara / It All Goes Up (Black Mesa Records)
There’s a dreamy quality to St. Louis-based singer-songwriter Beth Bombara’s new album that makes it difficult to place on the country/folk-rock spectrum. Although her voice is suitably twangy, the use of psychedelic-tinged guitar, mellotron and strings on many tracks gives her eighth release a sun-kissed, Laurel Canyon quality overall. By the third song, the Christine McVie-esque “Everything I Wanted,” it’s impossible not to fall head-over-heels for Beth’s entrancing melodies. It all seems to coalesce on “Get On,” with its message to accept the things we can’t change complemented by a swirling arrangement that would surely make Brian Wilson smile. Later, Beth’s deep Americana roots are revealed on the sparse and bluesy “Curious And Free,” while “Give Me A Reason” takes things in an unexpectedly grungy direction. These songs provide some welcome contrast, helping to make It All Goes Up, on the whole, a dynamic musical trip from an artist poised to make some big moves.

The Waymores / Greener Pastures (Chicken Ranch Records)
Married duos in the Americana field are hardly unusual these days, but listening to Willie Heath Neal and Kira Annalise of Atlanta’s The Waymores, it almost feels like being invited to a rousing Sunday hootenanny after enjoying a home cooked meal. Although the couple has been performing together since 2007, the buzz surrounding Greener Pastures (their third release) stems from how they managed to coax legendary producer Shel Talmy (The Who, The Kinks, The Creation) out of retirement. Of course, no one should expect to hear chiming Rickenbackers on Greener Pastures, but the album does bear the crisp, clean tones Talmy made famous during his Britpop glory days, albeit in a predominantly acoustic setting. Kicking off with a cover of Buck Owens’s “Under Your Spell Again,” The Waymores go on to offer nine other original honky tonk-tinged gems, all underscored by the couple’s easy-going humour that will appeal to fans of classic Porter and Dolly / Conway and Loretta duets.

SONG OF THE WEEK

Al Green / “Perfect Day” (Fat Possum Records)

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