After his last rather outré offering Western Bell had baffled many, Kelly Joe Phelps realised it was time for a bit of a rethink. His attempts to push his guitar playing as far as possible had perhaps gone beyond their logical limit, Phelps concluded that technique as an end in itself was rather boring. So returning to a focus on songwriting and his original inspirations of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Phelps reawakened the creative muse through tapping back into his faith.
The result is a collection of gospel, folk and blues all played and sung solo and captured (as the cover proudly announces), in glorious mono by Steve Dawson. With just resonator, or acoustic guitar and voice, it would be a mistake to call the songs simple. The deft picking of Pilgrim’s Reach for example amply shows that not all guitar technique is boring, as does the bottleneck of the instrumental Spit Me Outta The Whale. Indeed the whole thing is packed with licks, lines and flurries that are quietly stunning. Ry Cooder-esque, the genuine passion that drives the conviction behind the songs is obvious. Whatever your own religious opinions there is plenty to like here. [Reviewed by Simon]