C9S11CD11 Blues is a strange genre of music as it covers such a wide range of music. It can be defined by City, Chicago, Texas and New Orleans all seem to have their own style, or by instrument, piano, harmonica or guitar blues, or even by style, blues rock, acoustic blues, and swamp blues are all legitimate sections of blues music, but in truth it all started with nothing more than an acoustic guitar in the cotton fields of the Deep South and this is where Kelly Joe Phelps takes his inspiration from and without changing it too much makes the blues into something that feels modern and relevant.
Phelps plays acoustic blues in the most part, although he has released a couple of albums with a backing band it doesn’t seem to make a significant difference to the sound. I have been lucky enough to have seen Phelps live and he wandered onto the stage in denim shirt and jeans, woollen hat pulled down tight and work boots as if he had been working on the roads all day. He sat on a chair and either plays his guitar with a finger picking style or flat on this lap playing slide guitar. Both styles seem to take on a somewhat hypnotic beat which blended with the smoothness of his voice which never seem to raise in volume much more than a whisper makes this music some of the most relaxing I have ever heard.
This album is a mix of solo recordings, it doesn’t say when and where they are recorded but as a number of tracks come from his 2003 release Slingshot Professionals they must have recorded after that. We get nine tracks, seven originals and two covers, the opening Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues (Skip James) and I Am The Light Of The World (Rev. Gary Davis). It’s hard to determine the covers from the originals as they are all delivered in a style where it is hard to work out one song from another never mind the covers from the originals! All the nine tracks weight in at over 6 minutes with the opener lasting nearly ten minutes. My favourite tracks are Tommy and Waiting For Marty but really the album deserves to be played from start to finish, maybe after a hard day at work, work out the knots of tension that we all sometimes have.
Phelps has a tremendous body of work and I would recommend any of his solo albums, but this album is a great reflection of his work and his live performances and is a great place to start.
This track isn't on the album but you'll get the idea of his style from this.