Kelly Joe Phelps's ninth album and first in three years represents something of a departure from previous work, but not a radical one. For this record he's abandoned his trademark lap slide to play bottleneck guitar instead; in fact this is the only instrument featured on the entire album. The other new feature is that practically every single song on here has a religious theme-even the two instrumentals have biblical references in their titles. In this sense, 'Brother Sinner..' could be called a gospel album, although the musical style here is firmly rooted in the folk-blues tradition. Religious sceptics need not be too worried, however, as the songs tend to question rather than preach, and Phelps seems most concerned with questions of salvation, redemption, and the struggle to keep faith in a harsh world.
The music is low-key, subtle, and intricate, but there are plenty of rewards to be had for the patient. Phelps is a remarkable guitarist though never a show-off, and his voice has an appealingly warm and lazy quality. The standout track is perhaps 'Sometimes A Drifter' which really is very beautiful in a melancholy kind of way. Top artwork by John Rummen, too!