“Starlight Highway” – Corinne West
I could review the new Corinne West album in one word: seductive. Of course then I’d have to go on to explain that I didn’t mean seductive in the dim all the lights, pink champagne and Barry White sense of the word. “Starlight Highway” seduces the ears and the soul with playing that’s subtle and restrained and harmonies that will melt the hardest heart. The album’s opening song, “Trouble No More” sets the tone with a gentle combination of mandolin, Hammond B3 and Corinne’s multi-layered harmonies augmented by the voice of guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps to create a perfect setting for the pure and seemingly effortless lead vocal. And that’s only the first song.
The album never shifts too far from a laid-back Americana/country feel, although there are slight shifts of emphasis, including the jazz-tinged “Gypsy Harbor” and the delicate strummed guitar and subdued piano fills of “Find Me Here”. The stylistic shifts aren’t allowed to undermine the unity of the album, which is held together by the quality of the playing and, particularly, the two main voices working together to deliver perfect harmonies and just the right degree of contrast for the duets that dominate the album, from the delicate “Audrey Turn the Moon” to the classic Nashville sound of “Cry of the Echo Drifter” and the slow country-rock of “A Night Falls Away Singing”. Shades of Gram and Emmylou.
The title track is a mandolin-driven uptempo country song with the message that music can be an escape for us, with an additional twist of synaesthesia in the lines ‘Mother she’s a rainbow, Father’s made of sound’ emphasising the multi-sensory nature of music and the visual arts. It’s a great collection of songs (ten in total, all superbly constructed and delivered) and vocal performances to die for from Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps.
The album’s out in the UK on Friday April 29th on MAKE Records (MAKE7447) and she’ll be touring the UK for the first time in four years from mid-May to early June.