Nashville’s J.K. Webb first picked up a six-string when he was fourteen years old back in the Golden Age of music in the 1970s.
Like many budding musicians of his time, he got his start learning the parts to different Beatles songs until he eventually began penning tunes of his own. Today, under the name The Gimlet Project, Webb has released a nostalgic and optimistic collection of songs, Gimlet Road.
“Gimlet” was the name of the street on which Webb grew up, and the place where he fell in love with music and made some of his most formative memories. Gimlet Road seems to be the natural result of his time spent there and the years that followed; through tracks about his upbringing, the people in his life, and his experience of the world around him, Webb manages to create a vibrant world of memory, love, and hope. Recorded with Ken Royster at Nashville’s Direct Image Studio, Gimlet Road is a heartfelt, homespun story of a life well-lived.
The idea for the album’s opening track and advanced single, “Five Minutes to Midnight,” came from an article Webb had read about Stephen Hawking and the Doomsday clock. With lines like “Five minutes to midnight / Get your tickets for the great escape,” Webb humorously depicts the gravity of our world’s situation while simultaneously urging listeners to work to improve our world. Despite the darker subject matter, the instrumentals are upbeat and catchy, effectively driving home this idea of optimism in the face of adversity.
The title track, “Gimlet Road,” details Webb’s teenage years and the experiences he shared with his dear friend Mike. Following a Doors-esque guitar intro, the song delves into their lifestyle: working hard and getting into mischief. A fun picture is painted with lines like, “On Gimlet Road / It’s a hot southern night / Papa said ‘don’t go roaming ‘round, keep inside’ / Mike, all his whiskey’s watered down, watered down / Have another round / In the fields tomorrow / Gonna sweat it out,” that describe the boy-ish antics of two teenagers at that stage of their lives.
“Roberta’s Back Yard” is a nostalgic tune that tells the story of Webb’s aunt, Roberta, and her home as he remembers it from his childhood. Packed with strong imagery, beautiful acoustic guitar melodies, and emotion, Webb leads the listener to think about their own “Aunt Roberta,” rendering the song a relatable high point of the album. It remains just vague enough for the listener to insert themselves into Webb’s position reflecting on their own childhoods.
One of the album’s highlights, “Grounded” fires on all cylinders. The song opens with a perfectly crafted harpsichord melody and tells a story of a death row inmate’s last night, packed with biblical imagery. Reminiscent of artists like Van Morrison, the song feels unique yet familiar, and it shines vocally, musically and lyrically.
Another notable track, “You Rescued Me,” offers a groovy, reggae-inspired vibe in which Webb delivers a heartfelt ode to his wife. According to Webb, it was his favorite to record from the album due to its unique sound. Despite the different feel of this song, it still manages to fit comfortably within the style of the album, especially through its simple-yet-sweet lyrics like “If the world gets colder, loses all its shine / I’d wake up tomorrow knowing you are mine.”
The album’s closing track, “Flight of the Fireflies,” is an electronic instrumental piece that brings the listener into “the summer world of the lightning bugs.” Using Apple Drums and MIDI plug-ins along with some of his own guitar and bass, Webb pays homage to the classic rock that inspired him and creates a perfect bookend to a uniquely nostalgic record.