Webb Wilder 

Friday, August 10, at Wilbert's, downtown.

With huge glasses and a towering fedora, Webb Wilder is a true southern character -- a rootsy rocker with a wily attitude and humor that spreads like kudzu.

In the mid-'80s, Wilder belonged to the same establishment-rattling Nashville scene that spawned Jason & the Scorchers and Steve Earle. He even notched some chart success with the single "Tough It Out."

Originally, Webb Wilder was just a persona created by filmmaker Stephen Mims, musician John McMurry, and songwriter R.S. Field. On the cultish television show Night Flight, McMurry often appeared as "Webb Wilder, Private Eye." He enjoyed the character so much, he adopted it as his musical identity, with Field producing his albums and penning many of his songs.

This reeks of country-fried kitsch, but it's really not. Wilder is like a rambunctious John Hiatt, blending rock, country, rockabilly, surf, and southern soul. Over the years he has cut some gems, including "Human Cannonball" and "Big Time," as well as unique covers like Sonny Landreth's "Meet Your New Landlord" and the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)."

After retreating from the scene in the late '90s, Wilder returned in 2005 with the disc About Time; he dropped the CD/DVD Tough It Out the following year. Both releases retain Wilder's witty, gritty, and "gritsy" roots rock.

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