Saved by the features
Grammy-award winner Jimmy Webb made his name writing songs for other folks, but now he’s gone the way of Carole King and Willie Nelson, singing his own tunes—albeit with the help of quite a few luminaries. In fact, Webb’s latest features cameos from Vince Gill, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Mark Knopfler and Glen Campbell, all of whom more than make the album worth listening to.
However, though Webb alone may have been a great songwriter (best known for Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Galveston,” as well as Waylon Jennings’ “MacArthur Park”), his solo performances on the album leave much to be desired. Just Across the River is nostalgic (“Oklahoma nights, I will never forget you,” he wails) and often hotel-lobby-band gauzy, with some ambitious vocal arches that Webb, at 63, can’t quite manage. But Nelson’s presence is a boon on the country ballad “If You See Me Getting Smaller,” and Gill growls with plenty of heart on opener “Oklahoma Nights.” Similarly, “All I Know” is a touching lullaby that blends Webb’s voice with Ronstadt’s pleasantly. Perhaps it is a testament to Webb’s writing that his work is so deftly interpreted by other artists; unfortunately for Webb, such success makes it difficult for his own versions to measure up.