GAC Album Review: John Corbett’s Leaving Nothin’ Behind

John Corbett

John Corbett’s 2013 album, Leaving Nothin’ Behind. Photo by Bo Derek, courtesy of Funbone Records.

With an open sound stretching from loose country rock to roadhouse barn burners, actor/musician John Corbett heads straight for the Lone Star state on his second full-length album, Leaving Nothin’ Behind. The project, due in stores February 5, revels in Texas country tradition while helping John define a sound that may surprise fans of his TV and film roles in hits including Sex and the City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Born in West Virginia and counting artists Elvis, Tom Petty and Waylon Jennings as heroes, John tapped Texan Jon Randall Stewart (Dierks Bentley, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to produce the project that emphasizes rich songwriting, the majority of which comes from the Longhorn State. In fact, only two songs on Leaving Nothin’ Behind come from outside the state of Texas, and the result is a laid-back collection full of acoustic guitars, soulful melodies and sharp narratives that blends influences ranging from Robert Earl Keen to The Eagles.

John introduces himself with a warm voice on the album-opener, “Steal Your Heart,” setting the pace with an arrangement of earth-driven tones and light electric piano. Showing off a nice feel for a rolling melody, his comfortable delivery makes itself at home between the open chords and bluesy shifts. On the mariachi-tinged, “El Paso,” a haunting story song recounted by the wrongly accused, it’s his ability for rich expression that catches the ear as he sings with the soft sorrow of a method actor, All I’m guilty of is drinking cheap tequila and falling in love.

Even the songs that weren’t written by Texans, like the rodeo rambler, “Rainy Windy Sunshine” by Howard Bellamy of The Bellamy Brothers, have a dusty two-lane feel. Lines like, This old rodeo road will have me back in your hometown again, only add to the album’s windswept feel. And on the mandolin-driven, “Tennessee Will,” which tours the South from Memphis to Alabama, John displays a troubadour heart as his vocal floats nicely over the jangling progression. John’s at his best on the rootsy, acoustic-based material and songs like the Anytown, USA tune, “Dairy Queen,” emphasize his relatable everyman persona.

Glancing at the song titles, it’s tough to miss the boldly-named “Cocaine and Communion,” indicating that John won’t shy away from complicated themes just because he’s in the public eye. Here, the man who currently serves as GAC’s spokesperson for the network’s Living Country brand, delivers a touching song seeking redemption and forgiveness after a heavy dose of self-reflection. And on the amped-up satire, “Satin Sheets,” he skewers the drug use of the rich and famous over heavy distortion and thick drums. However, the mirror image “Backside of a Backslide” and “Me and Whiskey” together pull off the album’s most striking take on fighting with demons. While both start with the same story of a night on the town running later than expected, the two songs immediately take on very different feels to deliver one of the record’s biggest emotional blows. It’s a veteran move that pays off nicely with real and insightful depth.

Though John didn’t pen the songs on Leaving Nothin’ Behind, many strike a personal note for the singer. After losing his own father, the introspective “Name On A Stone” took on deeper significance for the 51-year-old as the song contemplates legacy and relationships. On Leaving Nothin’ Behind, John continues to create his own legacy with an honest project offering a new and exciting look at a talented artist.

Key Tracks – “Me and Whiskey,” “El Paso,” “Steal Your Heart,” “Dairy Queen”



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