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What the Road Has Brought Together

 

Kelly Joe Phelps and Corinne West

Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps have traveled the same roads for years — paths deeply rutted by countless musical gypsies past — but they rarely met. In late 2009, their musical avenues meshed when Phelps performed alongside West in a series of CD release shows for her most recent album The Promise. During these shows it became apparent that each had found a true musical partner. The next path to follow: Become one as a duo.

Their partnership, built on the foundation of mutual respect and admiration of each other and their craft, led to the 26-minute, six-song EP Magnetic Skyline, recorded live-off-the-floor at Skywalker Sound (the sound division of George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch) in Novato, Calif. The songs on Magnetic Skyline, previously released on two of West’s earlier albums — the critically acclaimed debut Bound for the Living (2004) and The Promise (2009) — are innovative again with two destined-to-be-together voices soaring on the wings of their beautifully intricate but seeming effortless acoustic guitar work.

Coupled with her sensuously soulful voice, West’s insightful and provocative songwriting is an airy, free-flying vehicle, perfect for Phelps’ innovative and artistic guitar skills. A brilliant improviser, Phelps is known for his remarkable ability to reinvent a song — blending multiple influences with his own voice — every time he plays.
This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, July 15, 2010

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Love’s Ups and Downs

The first track of Dave Barnes’ latest release and forth full-band studio album, What We Want, What We Get, – with the opening line “everything is beautiful” riding on a smooth lilting reggae groove – suggests that we’re about to embark on a ten track journey through McCartney motivated silly love songs. Not true – that opening track “Little Lies” delves deep into the realistic language of love with “words can be daffodils or a fire in an open field.” Now that is love, beautiful and frightening, “butterflies with broken wings.”

As a songwriter, Barnes was initially only interested in writing material for other performers but was later encouraged by his peers to perform his works himself. So, damn his boyish good looks and amiable stage presence, after graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, that’s what he set out to do in 2002 when he released his debut EP Three, Then Four. His songwriting skills have since been praised by Amy Grant, Vince Gill and John Mayer. Barnes even dabbled in stand-up comedy, but thankfully returned to songwriting in 2007.

Barnes’ latest messages for all lovers – with bits of Fagen and Becker influences – reach fruition in the final tracks, “My Love, My Enemy” and “Amen,” with observations such as “You’re my darkest night lost at sea, you’re the shadows, you’re my light” and “We’ll live through so much more than we could take… When everything’s wrong, and I’m the one to blame.”
This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, June 24, 2010

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