Set the scene…
A beautiful Autumn evening, mild and clear, bountiful piles of fallen leaves describing every hue, tumble and adorn the ground outside St. George’s in Bristol - a wonderful venue that is entirely suitable for the presence of the very special talent of Mr. Kelly Joe Phelps. This will be the second show I will have witnessed in four months by this incredible musician and it is an experience that still sends the tingle of anticipation along my spine.
Third song in Kelly Joe enters the zone. “Not So Far to Go” which stands out as the most untouchable part of the evening presents an aural vision, sheer bloody poetry, a guitar slinging, six stringed Dylan Thomas. His feet rock from heel to toe and back, his chair sways, the head tilts back and with eyes closed his mouth opens and a rush of air is exuded, moans and sighs, his lyrics as sophisticated as his playing and bourbon and tobacco shrouded notes tumble and scatter into the air. He takes tones and sprinkles them amongst the crowd like handfuls of glitter, the notes float into the cool evening air hanging like globes of crystal which slowly evaporate making way for the next second of enchantment, they land like snowflakes on warm grass. Flashes and sparkles of magic fly from his fingertips, he weaves his supernatural web before a hushed and awed gathering
Kelly Joe’s playing as ever is an unqualified delight - fluid and lyrical as a mountain stream, as solid as a rock and as passionate as a heart broken lover. If you have ever picked a note or strummed a chord you cannot but appreciate the sophistication of his technique. As complex and intense as it is, the playing is never rushed or clinical, like any expert, his façade belies the massive amount of control and precision that is concealed behind. Phelps is a born player, you can see it in his eyes and here it in the voicing, he has a great tone, but above all he has “touch”. The Martin he plays is an extension of his body, his heart and soul. There is nothing quite like seeing him roll back his eyes and throw out a flourish of notes just because they had to be played, it is organic, it is pure and it is as elemental as fire and water when he picks it up that guitar to play.
the stuff of legend, each show Phelps puts on seems to have an incredible
emotional pull. I find it hard to take it all in mostly, it is an experience
that takes you to another place, Phelps transports you to his world,
and it is a far more beautiful place then this one and it is a place
you never want to leave.