Splash FM Website of the Day, 1st August 2005. Be Impressed.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kelly Joe Phelps – Go There.

Fantastic, white bluesmen are few and far between. In fact, you could count the number of great, white blues musicians on the fingers of one finger. He’s Kelly Joe Phelps.

Like many old-time blues musicians, Phelps began his musical career playing fretless bass in a series of free-jazz groups and was highly technically adept. However, he swung to the other side of the musical spectrum and decided that the limited but soulful acoustic blues was to be his idiom. According to legend, this conversion occurred after a Robert Johnson/Jesus style period spent alone in the wilderness. He also developed his penchant for playing slide on a guitar laid flat across his lap at this time after a mysterious ‘carnival accident’ (“No-one tells me what I can’t stick my arms out of.”) didn’t leave him with any other choice.

His early albums, Lead Me On and 1997’s Roll Away the Stone, owe a great deal to his blues influences. As well as a high percentage of blues standards, his own songs on these albums are indebted to the tradition. For example, today’s track Go There, with it’s references to poor sinners and bible reading, is lyrically and musically reminiscent of the gospel-blues of Reverend Gary Davis.

But increasingly Phelps began to move back towards free-jazz and wrote increasingly literary songs to establish the unique style that sets him apart from most modern blues musicians. The balance between these two hit perfection on the follow-up to Roll Away the Stone, Shine Eyed Mister Zen. Unfortunately, he continued to head towards free-jazz and recruited a band of jazzy beard-scratchers.

Kelly Joe Phelps – Go There

Roll Away The Stone


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