Jimmy Webb was a one-man hitmaking machine back in the 1960s, cranking out an incredible number of long-remembered songs in a three-year period.
He's never replicated that success (possibly no one could), but he's continued to write songs, musicals, a book and tour with a one-man show.
He brought that show to Dosey Doe Coffeehouse in The Woodlands Friday night, and while the place was only half-full, the 100 or so in attendance had a hugely entertaining night as Webb sang and told stories of his life.
Webb isn't the greatest technical singer by a long shot, and his piano playing can also be surprisingly rudimentary, but there is always something special hearing songwriters sing their songs that have been made into hits by others.
As he did in his 1996 largely solo album Ten Easy Pieces
, Webb transformed the breezy pop sounds of "Galveston" and "Wichita Lineman" into something much deeper and affecting.
"Galveston" was actually something of a misstep: not only did he introduce it with no mention of Ike - instead it was "This was a war song, and 40 years later it's still relevant, yada yada" - but he forgot the words
. He cheerfully acknowledged his mistake, but still - of all the songs...
Webb's discursive tales about stars like Frank Sinatra, Richard Harris and Waylon Jennings were at times charming, at times much more rambling than they needed to be (even though he's told them onstage countless times before). The 90-minute show featured just 11 songs, and a whole lot of hits were left on the shelf.
But the songs he did do he absolutely brought alive, and the audience was with him every step of the way.
To be sure, there's a lot of lyrical silliness in Webb's work - cakes left in the rain, moons that are harsh mistresses - but they're redeemed by striking melodies and inventive arrangements. He broke the rules (after learning them) like Bacharach or Sondheim, but still stayed within the strictures of his genre. And many of his lyrics are
well-turned, either through simplicity or vibrant metaphors. At Dosey Doe, he brought out the best of what was in the songs he performed and made it a memorable night.
A note about the venue: If you ever see an artist coming to Dosey Doe
who you think you might like to check out, it's more than worth the ride. An old Kentucky barn that was taken apart and painstakingly rebuilt, the place is intimate and has terrific acoustics. Many of the shows feature a meal, and it's not beans-and-slaw BBQ, it's well-done Southwestern cuisine. Aftermath's wife, a chicken-fried-steak expert, gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to her CFS.
If These Walls Could Speak
Campo de Encino (He said this was the "only archeological evidence I was alive during the `70s")
All I Know
By the Time I Get to Phoenix
Nobody Wants to Hear a Rich Boy Sing the Blues
The Moon's a Harsh Mistress
Didn't We (Almost Make It)