While it’s as a mandolinist and guitarist with the (Acousticats and John McEuen’s String Wizards) that Tom Corbett raised his profile in the California acoustic music scene, it’s as a songwriter and singer that he struts his stuff on this, his second solo recording. But solo is a misnomer here, as he’s joined by a star-studded cast of players and vocalists, including Robin and Linda Williams, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Victor Bisetti, ubiquitous alt.country accompanist Greg Leisz, banjoist Bill Knopf, fiddler Phil Salazar, and many others. Although songs such as “Rear View Mirror” and “Let My Pony Run” fit snugly into straight ahead bluegrass, they don’t carry nearly as much spark and originality as the rest of the album, when he draws on an eclectic range of other musical styles to present his material. Hidalgo’s accordion does a cultural leap to Cajun on the album’s infectiously bouncy opener, “When I Get My Wheels.” while Leisz and harmonica player Tom Ball get an extensive (seven minute plus) workout on the dark “Something ‘Bout The Blues.” “Island Calypso” and on “New York Evening” are gently syncopated folk-pop ballads that show Corbett’s gift for a memorable and well-sung melody.
His two covers choices on this CD are savvy ones. The Dillards’ “Whole World ‘Round” has a stripped-down old-time feel, while Scott Foxx’s “Fishin’,” is a playful and amusing acoustic swing tune that should appeal to anglers and their long suffering companions. When forced to let his fingers do the talking for him, as on the Celtic instrumental suite coyly titled “Mary’s Kissin’ The Quaker,” Corbett’s guitar,mandolin and tenor banjo skills show him to be a triple threat. But as “Cloudless Blue Sky” closes with a spare duet (with Jonathan McEuen) version of a moving and intimate song of an adult son’s too-little/too-late reconciliation with his father, “Hello Dad,” it serves to remind the listener that Corbett is a gifted songwriter. One hopes that this album won’t be the last chance to hear more of his fine work.__HK