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Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps - Magnetic Skyline (Tin Angel)

Star rating: 

Putting aside their respective solo careers, Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps have joined forces to form a perfectly complimentary working partnership, a decision that seemed destined to happen. A good sixteen years as a respected solo singer/guitarist, Kelly Joe found time last year to work alongside Californian singer-songwriter Corinne West, active on the music scene for the relatively shorter period of just six years, but a period packed with creativity nonetheless. After a series of album release shows promoting Corinne's third and arguably her best album THE PROMISE, the two musicians discovered their mutual respect for one another's music and subsequently got together to do a handful of shows earlier this year.

In February, after their first show at Shoenberg's Guitars in Tiburon, California, the duo were almost immediately rushed over to Skywalker Sound, the sound division of George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Novato, California to put down six of the songs featured on this, their first album together. MAGNETIC SKYLINE first appeared as a six track EP featuring three songs originally recorded for Corinne's debut album BOUND FOR THE LIVING (2004) including Mother to Child and Horseback in my Dreams and three for her last album THE PROMISE (2009), including opener Whiskey Poet and the brilliant Lady Luck, but re-worked with Kelly Joe's intuitive guitar and vocal accompaniment.

For the British release, Tin Angel have added a further two songs, Amelia and River's Fool, taken from recent radio performances, once again originally from Corinne's established repertoire, but reworked with some spellbinding guitar and vocal harmonies courtesy of Kelly Joe.

During her short but productive solo career, Corinne has maintained a keen ear for great guitarists to accompany her songs and in Kelly Joe Phelps, she has found not only a first rate musician but a sort of kindred spirit, whose understanding of her songs is evident on this recording as in live performance, where the duo often disappear into their own empathetic universe.

Undoubtedly one of the finest slide guitarists around, Kelly Joe inexplicably laid down his bottleneck some time ago in favour of flat pick playing and has subsequently re-invented himself as a first rate flat pick guitarist. MAGNETIC SKYLINE was recorded live-off-the-floor with just two guitars and two voices and by the duo's own admission the recordings were done very quickly and therefore presumably was considered a stopgap recording until time could be found to write and record their own album of new material. The quality of the performances here however, in anyone else's hands, would be considered a masterpiece.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky