You might know him as the guy we all thought Carrie Bradshaw should have married in “Sex and the City.” Or maybe he made an everlasting impression as the groom-to-be that made the ladies swoon in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” And, I’ll admit it — to me he’ll always be Cicely, Alaska’s suave resident radio deejay on the “Northern Exposure” TV series. Lately you may have found yourself paying attention to the TV commercials a little more closely, because you recognize that voice on the Walgreen’s commercials. When’s the last time an actor’s voiceover actually made you feel like spending money on whatever is being sold to you? John Corbett has that kind of talented voice.
And it’s not limited to the small or big screen. That friendly, intimate voice can be found making its mark on the Americana music scene now, too. Corbett has just released his second album, Leaving Nothin’ Behind. How did this passion for country-ish music start? Country singer Joe Nichols heard Corbett sing during a late-night pickin’ session after they’d presented a CMT Flameworthy Award to Shania Twain. Music had always been John Corbett’s first love. Corbett grew up near Wheeling, West Virginia’s famed Capitol Music Hall (just a few miles from where Brad Paisley was raised) and he’s been playing since he can remember.
His mom bought him his first one when he was 7 or 8 — right about when she ignited his enduring passion for Elvis. He’s such a huge fan, he owns the king’s birth record—handwritten by the doctor who delivered him in Tupelo, Miss. Corbett also swears allegiance to the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Aerosmith, plus Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings and Buck Owens (who gave Corbett the last guitar the Bakersfield legend ever bestowed, two weeks before he died).
But it’s Corbett’s passion for a somewhat lesser known talent — Dallas-born musician, songwriter and producer Jon Randall Stewart — that drives Leaving Nothin’ Behind. Corbett may be from West Virginia, but he clearly spent some time in the Austin, Texas scene. Leaving Nothin’ Behind is made up of songs from mostly Texas songwriters. One of the strongest is a cut by Dallas-raised songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey, called “Satin Sheets.” Longtime Guy Clark collaborator Stewart wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s 10 songs, and co-produced with Gary Paczosa. Stewart also contributes guitars and harmonies, alongside talents including his wife, Jessi Alexander, John Cowan, Brian Sutton, Dan Dugmore, Michael Rhodes, Steve Gorman, Audley Freed and other respected Nashville names.
It’s a great album that delivers exactly what you’d hope for from one of the most likeable entertainers out there. His vocals are evocative and appealing. The accompanying instrumentation is first-rate and generous. The songs are all a good fit for the casual, comfortable persona that John Corbett has so successfully sustained for so long now. His talents as an actor are put to good use with the songs he has chosen; he is as much storyteller as singer here. It’s almost as if there’s nothin’ John Corbett can’t do incredibly well.
Essential Downloads: “Name on the Stone,” “Satin Sheets,” “El Paso.”
To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.