In essence Kat Webb, with her hip dreadlocks, looks as if she should be singing folk songs rather than the breezy neo soul that permeates A Better Picture, her sophomore album. Webb comes across as a hybrid of both these musical styles, while visually she brings to mind jazz chanteuse Cassandra Wilson. Possessing, at times, a pleasant and wispy voice, it is her seemingly aberrant vocal style that makes her range sound slightly problematic in its piercing clarity. Yet, beneath the occasional shrillness lies a voice of warmth that seductively yelps with a sinuousness that comes out whenher pitch isoccasionally brought down to the deep and throaty moans.
A self-described “Quasi Hippie,” Webb was raised in Austin, Texas, immersing herself in the celebrated sounds of such legendary performers as Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, before making her first public appearance in her local Baptist church. Her parents were so impressed with her voice that they gave her private singing lessons, further deepening her musical ambitions. After attending McCallum Fine Arts Academy in Austin, Webb studied at Yale, performing internationally in the acappella choir, Shades, and with The Yale Jazz Ensemble, where she was a featured performer.
Graduating in 2007 with a degree in English, Webb moved to New York and worked as an audio engineer and a backing vocalist for a handful of New York based artists before eventually deciding to cut her first album. Released in 2010, Webb’s debut, An Old Soul, was a hybrid of Soul classics and Jazz standards, including Al Green’s “I’m Still in Love with You,” Julie London’s “Cry Me a River” and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday”.
Opting for original songs this time round, Webb not only has arranged all of the vocals on A Better Picture, earning a credit as an executive producer, but she has also made her debut as a songwriter, creating five of the albums eleven tracks.
Produced by guitarist and composer Christian Ver Halen and bandleader Jesse Fischer, A Better Picture opens with the engaging sounding “Waver,” a track that flows from a classy, folksy guitar intro into a mid-tempo vibed affair, complete with quavering vocals. But that soft opening contrasts starkly with the upbeat “Playa Boi,”a super-sonic and electronic strut into an array of synthesized sounds.
The sinister “Good to Me”, with its swinging intro and stabbing, baleful horns, evokes Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and sees Webb dipping her voice into the sensual pool, vocally strip teasing over her shoulder to a would-be lover. The strutting and bluesy organ solo mingles with her sexy female vocal, enchantingly heightening the allure before the song changes into a somewhat anti-climactic call and response ending.
The tasty “Slow It Down” brings out the serene quality of Webb’s voice, but it’s the smouldering, smooth and slow brewing “Can’t Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” that is by far the standout cut. A mellow, finger snapping, pining affair, its mournful and broodingly soulful alto sax slow-burns to the hypnotic and sexually covetous chants that has Webb rolling in the musical afterglow. If Kat Webbcan create more gems such as this one, she will have any music paramour returning, hungry for more. Recommended
By Garry Moran