By Sandy MacDonald
Few young musicians have seen the world from the stage the way Kev Corbett has. Touring with the lively Francophone band Blou, the Amherst-raised bassist and drummer has visited the four corners of the globe, won awards and played for hundreds of thousands of fans.
All the while, though, the multi-talented musician was burning for a more intimate musical outlet, a chance to record his own rootsy-folk songs. So last year, Corbett enlisted Halifax soundman Greg Pretty and they put together a mobile recording studio in Pretty’s 120 year-old house.
Building the songs from simple acoustic guitar and vocal tracks, Corbett layered on the colour tracks, playing everything himself. It was the ultimate take-control gesture.
“I’d just always wanted to make a record where I played all the instruments,” says Corbett, 32. “For better or worse, it was going to be something that was mine. Every single wart that’s there is because I wanted it there.”
Corbett and Pretty have created a warm, organic recording. Corbett calls it ‘exploratory folk music.’
In addition to Corbett’s voice, guitars and percussion, there are dollops of didjeridu, found sounds, a digital rainstorm, a marching band (created by overtracking Corbett on his pulled-apart drum kit) and even a fiery sermon dredged up from 1931.
This debut solo project is a solid affirmation of Corbett’s mature songwriting skills. There’s no cloying faux-folk here; it’s clever, economical writing that marks the best of the genre. Think Dave Gunning or Texas songwriter Slaid Cleaves.
Corbett digs into a Tom Waits-like groove on ‘Honorable Mention,’ a salty lovesong built over a trashy cabaret backbeat.
Corbett is a beautiful phraser, tumbling his lyrics all over the rhythm of his songs.
His ‘Ice Cream Guy’ song a charming tune about Funky Bob, a loveable loser who decides his fortune lies in selling ice cream, the whimsicle (sic) tune recalls the music of Bob Bossin’s Stringband or Bob Snider.
“I never knew I had anything to say until I started writing songs. It’s not like I set out to revolutionize the songwriting world, but I’d like to think (these songs) are at least an interesting contribution…”
Corbett studied percussion at Mount Allison University, with a minor in playing bass. After relocating to Halifax, he helped form the Latin jamband Knifey Moloko, recorded with traditional fiddler Gordon Stobbe, and performed with singer-songwriter Amelia Curran, Gaelic singer Patricia Murray, and Celtic-folk duo the MacLean Sisters.
Then he landed a touring gig with Acadian band Blou, which quickly became his bread and butter. He still performs with the band. Late last month they were headed to China.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Kev Corbett launches his solo album Clumsy
WHERE: Ginger’s Tavern, as part of the CBC Lockout Lounge victory party