Description of Kelly Joe Phelps' Music:
Recommended Kelly Joe Phelps CDs:
Brother Sinner & the Whale (Black Hen Music, 2012) compare prices
Shine Eyed Mister Zen (Rykodisc, 1999) compare prices
Purchase/Download Kelly Joe Phelps MP3s:
"When the Roll is Called up Yonder" (from Roll Away the Stone)
"Goodnight Irene" (from Shine Eyed Mister Zen)
Kelly Joe Phelps Biography:
As a young musician, Phelps gravitated particularly to different forms of jazz music, inspired by artists like Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis. His affinity for old timey jazz guitar picking - along with his richly soulful, intrinsically melodic voice - made him a natural at the form, and he developed a specific skill for what's known as free jazz. Though he'd started playing guitar when he was in his earliest teen years, Phelps made his way through the jazz world mostly by playing the bass.
After a decade in that field, he somehow found his way to the blues, discovering contemporary and folk-blues artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell (whose prowess was angled at hill country blues and the old school of folk-blues guitar picking). After falling into the blues style, Phelps returned his focus to guitar and developed a way of playing guitar wherein he laid the guitar on his lap and played slide guitar using a metal slide. He's also developed a remarkably infectious method of flatpicking and fingerpicking and, in 1990, started trying his hand at songwriting.
Nonetheless, it wasn't until five years later that Phelps released his debut album and effectively launched his solo recording career. (He had previously lent his guitar and bass skills to other people's projects.) His early solo recordings included original and traditional songs alike, allowing him to balance the line between old-school and contemporary folk and blues singing, always with one foot firmly planted in the realm of gospel music. Though many of his recordings have featured him solo with only one instrument and his deep-soul vocals, he has brought in a full band from time to time.
Considering his skill on the guitar as a jazz, blues, country, and folk picker, it wasn't until 2009 that he finally released a complete album of instrumental tunes - Western Bell (compare prices). In all, Phelps has released ten studio albums and one live record as of this writing, including one studio record with Corrine West. He's also lent his instrumental skills to the recordings of folks like Rory Block, Tony Furtado, Townes Van Zandt, Jay Farrar, Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, and a number of other darlings of the contemporary folk and Americana music scenes.
To stay abreast of Kelly Joe Phelps' tour dates (he travels frequently across the US and internationally as well) and other information, you can visit his website at KellyJoePhelps.net.