Kelly Joe Phelps receives an added measure of folk assurance
by teaming with singer Corrine West for a collaboration that often recalls the
late Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson at their purest and most forlorn.
Expanding beyond the blues-based motif that’s been his calling card throughout
most of his career, the new album integrates supple guitar play and delicate vocals
in a mix as pure and pristine as an authentic trad template. So while the songs
are original compositions – mostly by West who seems out to seize top billing
here -the rich acoustic accompaniment puts them firmly on old school footing.
While West’s solo turns tend to sound somewhat precious, there’s a sturdier
edge when the two share harmonies, transforming “River’s Fool,” “Horseback In
My Dreams” and “Road To No Compromise” into the sort of sepia-tinged laments
best heard by candlelight with a whiff of patchouli. The low-lit gaze maintains
its pensive perspective throughout, allowing little change in tone or tempo
from song to song. That can leave room for distraction, especially for those
desperate in need for more adrenalin.
Nevertheless, nine tracks make a case for brevity, and for that short
spell, there’s plenty of opportunity to feel mesmerized and entranced.
“River’s Fool,” “Amelia,” “Horseback in My Dreams” LEE ZIMMERMAN