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Kelly Joe Phelps | Sky Like A Broken Clock (Rykodisc)
It's nigh on impossible to keep abreast of everything, even some of the best. Sky Like A Broken Clock is Portland, Oregon native Kelly Joe Phelps' fourth album, but my introduction to his talents, and on this evidence I'll be seeking out the others as soon as. Simply put, Phelps is a master of small hours acoustic blues. His songs wash over you and genuinely soothe. As a recent one, for the benefit of future initiates, Phelps is truly blessed in the vocal department, and I am reminded only of the best - John Martyn, Lowell George, Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Rodgers. Sonically sparse and crisp, Phelps performs unaccompanied and with band, a light and slinky New Orleans groove as stirring as it gets. He is a deft and effective guitarist that never shows off. His brief quicksilver flurries are evidence enough that here is a man who knows his way along a fretboard. So it's simple and pretty, the emphasis on the right mood to tell his curious stories. A blissful listen from start to finish, but it will ever remain a mystery as to how I'd not encountered Kelly Joe Phelps before. How come nobody told me?!

Tom Sheriff
June-July 2001