Slide guitar maestro, back in the Delta at last.
Back in the mid-90s, Phelps started his recording career as a virtuoso slide guitarist steeped in Delta traditions. Over the course of half a dozen further albums he morphed into a fine, gritty-voiced troubadour and although much was gained, observers felt something was lost, too. Those who longed for him to concentrate on his picking will seize eagerly on this all-instrumental showcase, and Western Bell will inevitably evoke comparisons with Fahey and the American primitives in its plangent invention, which borrows as much from free-jazz as from the old country blues masters. But it's also the sort of album James Blackshaw must dream of making.
- Nigel Williamson