There are roots rockers, and then there's Webb Wilder. His legendary live shows have inspired a burgeoning cult following. For over 20 years, Wilder has mined rock 'n' roll's most hallowed ground, but unlike so many others, he has approached it all with a rare irreverence and wit. His self-effacing persona gives Wilder's music a sense of fun and imagination often lacking among his peers. And while many other proponents of American roots music simply stopped at Elvis and Chuck Berry, Wilder's music incorporates influences as diverse as British Invasion, surf, country and roadhouse blues. As Billboard magazine noted, "The band is Georgia Satellites, part Dave Edmunds, part Elvis Costello and altogether wonderful." More Like Me finds Webb in great form, and combines some of his new songs like the honky-tonking title cut with obscure cover gems -- including a great version of Roky Erikson's brooding "Don't Slander Me."
Hardly a purist, he has described the music he and his band, The Beatnecks, make as, “Rock for Roots fans and Roots for Rock fans.” In essence: Rock and Roll. There’s nothing new about combining R & B, Rock and Roll, Country, Blues, Pop and Rock. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles proved that it can yield marvelous and diverse results. I said he wasn’t a PURIST. I didn’t say he wasn’t very PICKY about the quality of the music. That includes everything from the sonics of the recordings, the choice of players, the influences he draws on, the songs he chooses to cover, or how attentive he is to the craftsmanship of his own songs.
The self-proclaimed “Last Of The Full Grown Men" hasn’t limited his creativity to the music business. There’s the picture business. His critically acclaimed indie films made him a cult hero and led to a major motion picture (Peter Bogdonavich’s “The Thing Called Love,” Paramount). He’s done guest appearances on other’s albums (Ben Folds, Jason Ringenberg, Farmer Jason, William Shatner, Maura O’Connell), and a Disney produced duo of companion CD’s for the animated movie “Cars.” His smooth baritone has been used for voice-overs on countless radio commercials; he even did a stint as one of America’s FIRST Satellite DJs on XM Radio for four and a half years. Using all manner of media, Webb Wilder has been impacting Popular culture (and it him) for way over 20 years, all the while maintaining a devoted worldwide fan base through a relentless, never ending tour schedule.
More Like Me, his first collection of new material since 2005, is classic Webb - an exciting blend of bedrock American music and bittersweet ballads incorporating a host of influences. Not forgotten is his ever present irreverent attitude and wit. According to Gibson Guitar magazine, this “gives Wilder's music a sense of fun and imagination often lacking among his peers.”
A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Wilder moved to Austin, Texas in 1976 with his boyhood friend, Bobby “Crow” Field. Incorporating a British Invasion influence (among others) into their then double time tunes separated Wilder’s music from the pack. After moving to Nashville, Wilder and Field formed the Beatnecks in 1985. As Nashville moved toward unapologetically commercial fare, Wilder and Field were busy crafting their signature brand of rock 'n' roll, founded on classic influences from both sides of the pond. Wilder's debut, It Came From Nashville, a brazenly rocking bar-band rave-up, seems even more unlikely now than it must have seemed then. His subsequent albums (Hybrid Vigor, Doo Dad, Town & Country, Acres of Suede, About Time and Born To Be Wilder (live)), have continually maintained the high standard set by the first, becoming textbooks for aspiring roots rockers and showing there was (and is) a vibrant market for their hybrid brand of Southern musical gumbo.
In concert, Wilder spikes the punch between songs with potent doses of rustic wit and character, transcendent mediations, incantations, and codes by which to live. Webb’s first Blind Pig release, Born To Be Wilder captured that on-stage alchemy with a set featuring favorites such as “The Human Cannonball,” “Tough It Out”, “Miss Missy From Ol’ Hong Kong”, “Louisiana Hannah,” and others, at their rockin’ best in front of a sold out enthusiastic crowd. Elmore Magazine called Born To Be Wilder “a generous helping of fresh, tasty rock 'n' roll that will leave the listener asking for seconds," while American Songwriter said it “highlights the musical attributes that make him appealing and unique."
Music critics have always warmed up to the Webb Wilder juggernaut. The Associated Press described the band's music and stage performance as "a glorious amalgamation of grunge chords, killer grooves, Screamin' Jay Hawkins theatrics, a healthy sense of humor, and great pop melodies." It's "full of wit and personality, and devoid of technological or conceptual gimmickry," added the Houston Post.
The early films (Webb Wilder, Pvt. Eye: The Saucer’s Reign, Horror Hayride) have become underground cult classics. They were recently compiled on the Webb Wilder's Amazing B Picture Shorts DVD released in 2008. The DVD also features some WW related bonus material as well as some fine (non-Webb) films from acclaimed Webb Wilder cinematographer, Steve Mims.
The new studio album, More Like Me, is a potent collection that blends all the humor, wistfulness, urgency, soul, grease, heartache and humor that runs through the great Blues, Country, Pop, Soul and (most of all) Rock and Roll that Webb loves, lives and breathes into a sound that is just a little, well…”Wilder” than the rest. Fans of Wilder’s fretwork won’t be disappointed, as Webb gives his guitar plenty of attention on tracks like the Rock ‘n’ Roll rave up “She Said Yeah,” the heavy Hillbilly Boogie of “Honky Tonkin’ (In Mississippi),” as well as his low-fi and low DOWN (“Howlin Wolf meets The Cramps”) take on Roky Erikson’s, “Don’t Slander Me,” just to name a few. Always working in the two guitar format live, Webb includes long time axe men associates, George “the Tone Chaperone” Bradfute, Bob Williams and guitarist/co-producer, Joe V. McMahan to paint colors not otherwise provided by his own six string brush strokes. Bob provides textures that extend beyond the typical tenets of twang, like the electric sitar heard in “Pretty Is As Pretty Does.” His contributions don’t end there, either. Joe V. is all over the place and not only as a brilliant guitarist, co-producer and engineer. He and Bob both play pedal steel on one song each for instance. George joins Webb and Joe (all three do some “string stranglin’) on “Slander,” as well as providing the beautiful resonator mandocello on” “She’s Not Romantic,” also featuring atmospheric accordion (Michael Webb), one of the many NON-guitar spices seasoning the stew throughout the record. There are other guests, but every track is anchored by longtime drummer Jimmy Lester and Beatneck bassist, Tom Comet. Tom even got WAY involved with the cover art turning Webb’s concepts into reality. Along with “Romantic,” More Like Me contains some of Webb’s most irresistible tunes yet, like “Come Around” and “Too Cool For Love.” There are five Webb originals altogether with infectious melodies and left of center but, right on target lyrics that should appeal to anyone with a ticket to ride on the “mystery train.”
Webb Wilder is an evangelist for real Rock 'n' Roll. As a singer, guitarist, bandleader, film actor, songwriter and humorist, he may be roots-rock's only true Renaissance man. More Like Me will no doubt find favor with Webb’s devoted legion of fans, but with its affecting songs and masterful performances, it’s sure to bring many newcomers into the fold.