EXCLAIM
By ERIC THOM
March 2003

"You'd best not try to pigeon-hole Kelly Joe Phelps or try restricting what he does by attempting to define it in terms of tidy little musical genres. He's determined to keep moving. His fifth album finds him further removed from where 'Sky Like A Broken Clock' left off, which is precisely his point.

In the beginning, this somewhat melancholy, lap-slide wizard bubbled up from the Delta to stun audiences with his texturally rich and definitely original approach to the blues. His next exploration took him to experiment with the magic that results when musicians interact with each other, allowing songs to breathe with a life all their own. 'Sky' added more colours to Phelps' musical palette as bass and drums brought new hues to an already lush soundscape.

'Slingshot Professionals' positions Phelps deeper into the role of bandleader and his current fascination is focused on the creative process inherent in songwriting, triggered by words and language. At the same time, these word rhythms trigger the music around them and the core of Phelps' soulfulness remains the ability of the musician to define the song through the improvisation that results from a live performance and interaction. He still records this way. So it's really no surprise that Phelps has forged a deep connection with Canadian 'strang' pioneers, Zubot & Dawson, whose flamboyant and spontaneous approach to music - and their prodigious talents - mirror and compliment his own. Phelps guested on their "Chicken Scratch" release and they make up a large part of 'Slingshot', together with noted jazz colourist, Bill Frisell. Phelps is a powerful vocalist able to coax a roar from a whisper, wincing and slurring like a man possessed, while each band member embellishes their every line with equal parts heart and stamina.

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