Tom Corbett was born with a name sure to evoke memories of an intergalactic American future with listeners of a certain age, but he has no relation to the fictional Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. This Corbett is a mandolin player well known on the West Coast bluegrass, newgrass, swing, and alt-folk scene. He's been playing mandolin since he was 11, and has contributed his picking expertise to the String Wizards, John McEuen's post-Nitty Gritty Dirt Band group, and the acoustic solo album of Mike Ness (Social Distortion). On Tonight I Ride, Corbett covers a lot of ground and shows off his chops in a variety of musical settings. "Welcome to Tom's Place" is a spry bit of jazzy Texas swing with a winning lyric and first-rate playing from a band of Toms -- Tom Rozum on second mandolin, fiddler Tom Sauber, Tom Lee on bass, drummer Tom Lackner, and Tom Ball playing harmonica in a style the suggests a muted trumpet. "Still Hear Her Crying" is a folky railroad tune about an engineer who meets an untimely end and the woman who loves him. The song sounds like it could have been written a hundred years ago or yesterday. The title track is a prison song with a stomping Waylon Jennings-like beat and a surprisingly upbeat lyric. David West's electric guitar makes the tune's message of hope soar. "Love Me One More Time" is a humorous bluegrass tune about the end of a relationship that includes delicious references to all the good food the singer's ex used to make, while Corbett channels Townes Van Zandt on "17 Miles a Day," a brooding, mysterious ballad full of ominous images. There are two stellar instrumentals, too. "Flip Flop Flingers" is a playful romp driven by a simple repeated melodic figure that'll stick in your mind after a single listen, with guitarist Mike Mullins trading snappy solos with Corbett's mandolin, and "Doce de Mayo" is a lilting Tex-Mex polka. With the exception of a twang-heavy version of the Charley Pride hit "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," everything on the album was written by Corbett. With songwriting chops this good, and his warm, pure country vocals, he should soon be moving to the forefront of California's singer/songwriter scene.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet