Review by: Gerrit Schinkel
It hasn’t really been quiet around Kelly Joe Phelps since his debut album in 1995 “Me on Lood”(sic). This American singer/songwriter has released an album every two years. In the 90’s he was acclaimed as a virtuoso slide guitar player with a high blues content. His first albums are filled with own songs, traditionals and gospels. On his later albums he added mandolin, violin and accordion. And he even released a totally instrumental album.
With his newest CD ‘Brother Sinner & The Whale’, KJP totally returns to his roots. The 12 numbers on this album are gems, which prove the influence on Phelps by Mississippi Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams. Sometimes he plays the most gorgeous slide and on the next he surprises everyone with his acoustic guitar. His somewhat hoarse voice is an excellent fit. An example of his superb singing can be heard in ‘Sometimes a Drifter’ and in ‘Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehova’’.
Brother Sinner & The Whale was recorded in Vancouver (Washington) over 3 days with producer Steve Dawson. You have to listen to the CD a few times but by then, you’ll be captivated by the warmth and the virtuosity of this album. If at all possible, I will try to go to one of his gigs in Holland in September, and maybe I will see you there!