Leaving Nothin’ Behind by John Corbett
Performing someone else’s songs is a bit like acting—you have to display a deep understanding of a character’s motivations for it to really work. Yet when a skilled actor like John Corbett (Sex and the City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) records an album, it’s usually met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Which is all pretty silly, to be honest. And on John’s third album, Leaving Nothin’ Behind, the heartthrob actor brings his best interpretive abilities to the studio. Joining John for the project is Jon Randall Stewart (Dierks Bentley’s Up on the Ridge), who co-wrote seven of the album’s 10 tracks and produced with Gary Paczosa. Leaving Nothin’ Behind is steeped in the language of classic Americana, with sighing steel and baritone guitar on the ballads, and boogie-woogie piano to match the electric guitars on the up-tempos. While John probably won’t win any competitions as a vocalist, he sings every tune with convincing warmth and personality.
He inhabits a variety of characters—the wrongfully convicted cowboy (“El Paso,” which bears some lyrical similarities to the Marty Robbins classic), the well-meaning guy who drinks too much and gets out of control (“Me and Whiskey”) and the prodigal substance-abuser turning over a new leaf (“Cocaine and Communion”). It doesn’t work as well on “Satin Sheets,” which opens with the lines Wish I was a millionaire / Play rock music and grow long hair. Maybe it’s the money thing—knowing the guy is already famous makes it a little tougher to swallow than when he yearns to leave some kind of lasting mark in the touching “Name on a Stone.”
But John is at his best when he puts on his Buck Owens suit and heads for the honky-tonks in “Backside of a Backslide,” spun out on whiskey and begging his baby to let him come back. The band of Nashville pros is revved up, barreling along behind him at full-tilt and having a ball. It’s a role, like his many memorable onscreen characters, that suits him well.