Kelly Joe Phelps – Brother Sinner & The Whale

Best known for his slide-guitar playing Phelps plays mostly in an acoustic country-blues finger picking style on this collection which includes a pair of instrumental tracks that without distraction allow the listener to really appreciate his mastery of  the guitar.

Phelps formative years were spent in Sumner, Washington, a rural blue-collar town where learnt to play country folk songs and play drums and piano from his father, before moving on to playing guitar when twelve, his first love was free jazz and he spent ten years or so mostly as a bass player before falling victim to the blues bug after listening to the classic acoustic blues of Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams, before moving on achieving critical recognition for his lap-style slide guitar playing. With eight albums and two EP’s already in his back catalogue since his debut Lean on Me from 1995 Phelps continues to make compelling music and avoids using gospel standards and reworking traditional songs in favour of a writing his own compositions (bar one I believe) that are served free of adornment with Phelps earnest vocal.

Despite my atheism I found a lot to enjoy in the latest album from Portland Oregon based guitar maestro Kelly Joe Phelps, there’s no escaping the fact this album doesn’t flaunt with gospel or dabble in obtuse spiritualism it’s very much a faith album though a couple of the tracks do have a more spiritual feel, there’s a great piece at No Depression with an interview with the man himself who will be over in the UK in January of next year playing shows all over the country – check the dates here.

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