The Austinist reviewed Jimmy's recent performance at One World Theatre in Austin, Texas, September 22, 2013.
Jimmy Webb, the only artist to ever receive Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration, was in town recently to kick off a tour of select cities in support of his most recent collection of duets, Still Within the Sound of My Voice. He started his tour in Texas, which he claims as one of his two home states (Oklahoma being the other).
Mr. Webb greeted the enthusiastic audience at One World Theater, noting that it had been a while since he'd last performed (by our reckoning, it's been a little more than five years since his last Austin performance at the Cactus Cafe). He then proceeded to flub the lyrics on the first song, "The Highwayman," restarted and then played it through without a hitch. Jimmy, we forgive you, because the air that evening was thick with songs and the stories around and behind them. From talking about his daddy who was a Southern Baptist preacher and "a person you could call at 2:00 a.m. to take care of a snake with a .45," to getting "at least two album's worth of songs" out of a good breakup, he kept the audience listening and laughing during the 90 minute-plus performance. He stayed after the performance for meet-and-greet with the audience, signing CDs and having photos taken until the last person in line had a chance to visit with him.
For those born sometime after the Baby Boomers, mentioning his name usually gets a "Who?" in return—until you mention the names of the dozens of hits he's written over the years. The list goes on and on, as does the roster of artists who've recorded them—a veritable "who's who" in music of the past 50 years. At the end of the day, Webb is a songwriter—a tunesmith, with more in common with Tin Pan Alley and the writers in the Brill Building in NYC, as well as with our own community of beloved Texas songwriters. These are people who found their most enduring life's work to be the songs they wrote for singers who vocal talents were a match for their material.
Webb's two most recent albums are both collections of duets with well known singers, including the singer/musician who has been most closely associated with his work, Glenn Campbell. The first of these, Just Across the River, includes a duet of "Galveston" with Lucinda Williams, who wanted to sing it with him because it was a song her mother had taught her when she was a little girl. The last song on the album is "All I Know" (which gave Art Garfunkel a major hit in the '70's). This one is particularly poignant, because it's likely the last known performance by Linda Ronstadt, recorded prior to the loss of her singing voice to Parkinsons Disease.
Both albums capture some of the 'lighting in the bottle' level of magic that has always been rich within his songs. The A-list singers performing on the most recent one - including Lyle Lovett, Keith Urban, Art Garfunkel, Joe Cocker, Brian Wilson, and Kris Kristofferson with his manly commentary-and-warble - make this collection a veritable snapshot of some of the very best of popular music, and a musical love letter to future generations. When it comes to songwriters and the singers who interpret these tunes, it just doesn't get any better than this.