It’s often said that the devil has the best tunes. Kelly Joe Phelps would not agree. While not quite an apostate who has turned his back on the blues, he told No Depression magazine he had been a born-again Christian for some time. His new album, based on the Book of Jonah, reflects a profound reawakening of his faith.
Phelps is a warm singer and a wonderful player, steeped in country blues, as capable of the jaunty picking that drives the likes of Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehova and the Mississippi John Hurt-inspired Goodbye to Sorrow as he is of moulding his bottleneck guitar around the instrumental Spit Me Outta the Whale. While the born-again element may deter some, the 12 self-written tracks convey Phelps’s difficult struggle with his soul and echo the journey of other gospel greats such as the Rev Gary Davis.