Song of the Day - 4/5/06

Portland, Oregon-based acoustic/slide guitar player and singer-songwriter Kelly Joe Phelps has been carving a growing niche for his music throughout the 1990s and Roll Away The Stone (Rykodisc, 1997). Phelps was raised in Washington and learned country and folk songs, as well as drums and piano, from his father. At first, he concentrated on free jazz and took his cues from musicians like Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and John Coltrane before finding his true calling as a blues musician in the late '80s, when he began listening to acoustic blues masters like Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams. He began singing as well, and released his critically praised debut, Lead Me On, in 1995. Six original songs showcase Phelps' ability in the blues idiom, but he also tackles, and does justice to, traditional numbers like "Motherless Children" and "Fare Thee Well." Phelps, as deft and creative an acoustic slide guitarist as you'll hear anywhere in the U.S., also made appearances on Greg Brown's album Further In, Tony Furtado's Roll My Blues Away, and Townes Van Zandt's The Highway Kind. In recent years, he's opened shows for B.B. King, Leo Kottke, Keb' Mo', Robben Ford and Little Feat. He released his second album, Roll Away the Stone, in 1997, and followed it up with 1999's Shine Eyed Mister Zen. Sky Like A Broken Clock, which appeared in 2001 exuded a more sultry disposition from Phelps; it's companion piece, the Beggar's Oil EP, was a critic's fave in 2002. Phelps was on fire, however changes loomed ahead. He switched up his role from solo act to bandleader when it came to recording a fifth studio effort in late 2002. Phelps wanted a dramatic orchestrated sound, so he collected guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Keith Lowe as well as Zubot and Dawson's Steve Dawson, Jesse Zubot and Andrew Downing (bass) for the recording of Slingshot Professionals; the album appeared in March 2003 and quickly earned critical acclaim among indie critics. ~amg

Kelly Joe Phelps - "Tommy"

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