There is something subtly wrong with Second Sight, the sophomore effort from bluegrass singer-songwriter Corinne West. It is first evident on the album cover, on which West is wearing an expression that is a cross between outright defiance to the popular-music establishment’s relegation of bluegrass to second-tier status and a desire to invite said establishment behind the woodshed for a sound beating. There isn’t anything wrong with suggesting a little physical persuasion to a group that has serially ignored talented musicians such as Alison Krauss, Kasey Chambers and Rhonda Vincent, but the intensity of West’s gaze indicates that she’ll take no joy in the task. And Second Sight bears out this initial impression. Although the musicianship and production is first-rate, the album severely lacks soul. West proves an able singer and songwriter, but much of Second Sight seems more like a technical lecture on bluegrass than an entertaining collection of songs.
All of the compositions here showcase West’s earthy vocals and an all-star back-up band consisting of bluegrass heavyweights Jerry Douglas, Darol Anger, and Tony Furtado. The ensemble plays with requisite speed and skill, and West has obviously worked to develop her vocal delivery, but the combination sounds antiseptically perfect. Although bluegrass values musicianship and precision over lyrical expression, West and her band play so perfectly that Second Sight is robbed of any human touches. Every time she sings a perfect chorus over a flawlessly constructed instrumental line, West shows she is serious about her music. Second Sight would have be much better had she remembered to have a little fun, too.