Kelly Joe Phelps may be from the Pacific Northwest but the blues is so much a part of his DNA that his songs are habitually steeped in the same doubts, despair and guilt as the great bluesmen from the deep South.
With this album Phelps is moving on and stating emphatically that "you can't sing about girlfriends and things like that forever".
His pleas for mercy and forgiveness are part of a personal quest for a greater spiritual centre to his life. This has led him to revisit biblical texts and his lyrics draw upon verses from the King James bible with the album title signalling the book of Jonah as a particular source of inspiration.
Alongside original songs and two instrumentals, there's also an arrangement of the traditional ballad I've Been Converted and a version of Willima Williams 18th century hymn Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehova ("Bread of heaven feed me till I want no more").
Phelps is realistic enough to concede that"This is going to be referred to as a gospel record".
Yet for all his confessions and expressions of trust in the Lord's goodness, these are not the preachings of a born again Christian. It is more the work of a repentant sinner striving to find for answers to big questions and reasoning that the Holy Book has a proven history of providing consolation to troubled souls.
The need for light instead of darkness is the explicit and implicit message throughout. On Hard Time They Never Go Away he sings of looking for a road out of weariness, heartache and sadness while the need for a guiding light pervades the album's defining track Goodbye To Sorrow: "my soul is being helped along by faith in His great care".
Recorded in just three days, there's a directness and intensity to these songs. For all suffering and doubt, this is still affirmative music that expresses a desire for a better life here on earth or,failing that, beyond the grave in "that glorious home in the air".
The accomplished slide guitar playing and introspective rasp of his vocals reflect the sorrowful mood and is particularly moving on Sometimes A Drifter in which he asks with a real sense of weariness : "Years and years of being so dark and sad, when does this life get easier?"
Phelps last album Western Bell, released in 2009, polarised many listeners who didn't quite know what to make of Fahey-esque instrumentals which a BBC critic described as "musical concrete for the guitar".
Brother Sinner and the Whale is a more conventional blues record so may bring admirers back to the fold. Even if you can't share the his newly found faith in the good book, the themes he addresses are so universal that they go beyond religious dogma.