Corinne West's voice isn't the sort that you'll hear on a mainstream pop country radio station. She has lots of character and too little surface gloss; perhaps that's why few potential fans have heard her music. Hopefully her second release, Second Sight, will bring her unique vocal and songwriting talents to legions of fresh new ears.
Second Sight, as you might surmise from its title, is West's second release. Her first was the self-produced Bound for the Living. She enlisted mandolin virtuoso Mike Marshall to produce Second Sight. He brought on board a passel of top-tier players, including Jerry Douglas on dobro, Darol Anger on fiddle, Tony Furtado on banjo, Todd Phillips on bass, John Burr on keyboards, and Scott Amendola on drums. But despite this high-octane band behind her voice and songwriting talents easily capture the center stage. Her voice is hard to pin down. At times I hear traces of Mary Chapin Carpenter's intimate drawl, at other moments the lilt of June Carter Cash. On several songs West's vocals hint at Cheryl Wheeler's playful power and Sylvia Tyson's unadorned honesty. But whatever singers West's vocals call to mind, in the end she is very much her own person, and all the songs on Second Sight are Corinne West originals.
West's songwriting style falls comfortably into that big broad category known as "Americana." In West's case, specifics run the gamut from bluegrass on "Gandy Dancer" and "Diamonds in the Wind," through semi-swing on "Lost and Found" to post-modern Appalachian ballads such as "All Good Things," and "Writing on the Wall." In every case, regardless of the style, West's songs have an authenticity that achieves what theatergoers refer to as "suspension of disbelief." The tunes feel much older, more like traditional melodies, than recently penned creations. West's songs share this admirable trait with songwriter Gillian Welch's best work.
The sound on Second Sight equals the quality of the music. I suspect a good part of Second Sight's sonic splendor comes from Mike Marshall's production savvy. His musicianship and comprehensive knowledge of American roots music make him unique among producers. I'm sure the arrangements also benefited from his masterly ear and encyclopedic knowledge of roots styles. The final results demonstrate a level of musical quality you won't often find on sophomore releases. One listen to Second Sight should be enough to convince you that Corinne West is worth your attention.