Concert Recap: Songwriting Legend Jimmy Webb Captivates at Greenwich Odeum (10-25-19)

Allysen Callery Sublime as Opener

Friday, October 25th was a special night in East Greenwich featuring two remarkable songwriters, one a 60’s legend who wrote hits for Glen Campbell, the 5th Dimension and the Highwaymen, and another, a Bristol, RI singer-songwriter who enchants with her low-fi “ghost folk” sound. Both artists captivated the Greenwich Odeum audience.

Webb shared stories throughout the show gently name-dropping colleagues he’s worked with over the years from Glen Campbell to Billy Joel to the studio bass genius Carol Kaye. (Did you know she came up with the intro bass chord to “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling?”) His set included stories and solo renditions of classics like “Up, Up and Away,” “Witchita Lineman,” and “Galveston.” This is one artist who’s stories are as important as his songs.

In addition to his award-winning songwriting, Webb’s strength is his personal and professional honesty – at one point he demonstrated how Campbell’s upbeat take on “Galveston” was far superior to the original version he recorded. His lyrics, of course, rise well above most and are part of the conversation that includes Dylan, Mitchell, King/Goffin, and Lennon/McCartney. On “Witchita Lineman,” he achieves a “God Only Knows” degree of lyrical perfection:

“I am a lineman for the county/And I drive the mainroad
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload
I hear you singing in the wire/I can hear you thru the whine
And the Wichita Lineman/Is still on the line

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And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman
Is still on the line.”

His personal story, inspired by the Beach Boys (“two girls for every boy, that sounded nice,” he noted) and others led the Oklahoma native to move to Los Angeles to write songs. He worked briefly for Motown, learned a lot and quickly worked his way to a Grammy Award in 1967 for “Up, Up and Away” “the only song in the Top 40 not about drugs,” he joked.

He played a slow ballad-like version his biggest hit, “MacArthur Park,” and closed with “Goodnight Angel,” a song from his new album written by Billy Joel for his daughter while Joel was going through a divorce. Webb is a legendary songwriter and his solo show is entertaining and inspiring. In his mid-70’s, he still tours regularly. Catch him when you can!

Allysen Callery

Allysen Callery is a nationally known Bristol resident who has toured Europe, played SXSW, and performs around town often. It’s hard to describe her style, influenced by artists from Sandy Denny to Joni Mitchell and beyond. Her set was brief but enthralling.

Callery played several from her catalog including the bluesy “Shoot Me,” with its ominous bass line, and the lyrical “Azores Song,” a love song to her husband. Her gentle whisper came through loud and clear at the Odeum.

Her lilting vocals and intricate finger-style guitar work were on display on “Spare Parts,” one of her most “complete” songs. The lyrics embrace the fragility of the human condition.

“Whatever you got lyin’ around /in the back of a closet or on the ground/
under your bed /I’d like to take it home with me.
I’ll build a man with a gold heart /out of the spare parts.”

Callery closed with the stunning “Lily of the Valley,” followed by a gentle, slightly spooky cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown.” Several albums and 10+ years recording and performing, Callery is certainly ready for prime time. Be sure to check out her web site here for upcoming shows.

What’sUpRI photographer Rick Farrell was there and shares a few photos from the evening.