An album that hasn’t left my playlist since it arrived a couple of weeks ago is Kelly Joe Phelps’s new one, Western Bell. For some KJP fans, this album is bound to be bitter sweet: it finds Phelps returning to slide guitar, but on a completely instrumental album, which means many will no doubt miss his haunting vocals. Me, I just love this CD. Phelps’s background in avant-garde jazz is more evident than on any of his previous releases, yielding an album that, while very melodic and listenable overall, has delicious servings of atonal skronk that is rare to find in a solo guitar context. Perhaps if you can imagine a blend of Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Marc Ribot, and Nels Cline, you’d be in the ballpark of what Western Bell sounds like—I’d highly recommend checking it out.