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TK Webb & the Visions:
Dutiful research tells us that Thomas Kelly Webb has been rocking and rolling for a long time, since his then-tiny fingers could first flip through Jimmy Page's mighty riffbook. Since relocating from Kansas City to Brooklyn in the late 1990s, Webb has developed a name downtown for his fire-breathing guitar heroics, laying lonely Delta sounds to tape but often busting amps and heads when the dedicated come to see him plug in and make with the shred. But anyone ready to hear more of the empty suitcase blues that inhabited Webb's previous outing, 2006's Phantom Parade, should prepare for a superfuzzed-out departure of redwood-sized proportions.
Ancestor is the fitting title of Webb and his newly christened Visions' first offering. Formed last summer, the Visions feature ex-members of Love as Laughter and Blood on the Wall, the most noticeable addition being second guitarist Brian Hale. Alongside the Visions, Webb's sound and songwriting vision (not intended) have taken a King Kong leap towards achieving a breadth that mirrors his talents, even if the result occasionally misses its mark.
Maybe it's not such a leap after all. From the first few groans and juggernaut kicks of opener "Teen Is Still Shaking", it becomes clear that Webb has come back to his first love: hard rock. Ancestor is a Porterhouse-thick compendium on rock: From the golden 1970s to the muddy 90s, J Mascis to Kim Thayil, leather to denim, David Allan Coe rebel honky-tonk to Paul Westerberg's scrappy white boy blues, Webb is all over the map here and much of the album's fun is found in spotting footnotes, every lick and flourish arriving to as much sweet bewilderment as many of the pop snippets sewn together on a Girl Talk party jam. If you're a guitar rock junkie.
If not, Ancestor's still impressive. Though he flirts dangerously with rock's pitfalls, Webb's developed a strong ear for fusing all these elements and styles together his own way without coming off like a cornball. This, from a man with a catcher's mitt voice like Mellencamp's (Don't run! It's awesome!) and a gift for radioactive solos that could both unzip dresses and leave shiners. Two of said solos bookend the monstrous "God Bless the Little Angels"; more sensible men would probably place an eight-minute study in psychedelic uppercuts somewhere in the waning breaths of an album, but the Visions switch to kill fairly quickly. "Patience & Fortitude" is a great name for an acoustic sigh that requires both, while "Isle of Grizzly White" and "Shame" feel like throwaways unable to subsist on faceless crunch alone. Which is precisely why closer "Time to Go" saves the day by showing some restraint. Clocking in at just over three minutes but still containing all the lard-less dreamweaving you'd expect, it's a nice parting gift that even features vocals from Love as Laughter's Sam Jayne.
Webb's dalliances with purist blues were a respectful, accurate channeling but this feels more like home. Where Phantom Parade tapped that vein so specifically, Ancestor opens floodgates similar to the giant door that sits front and center on its cover. Just consider growing your hair out a bit longer before you head inside.