March 2003

And so, he continues to grow. Album number five, 'Slingshot Professionals' is a very wonderful thing. Richly acoustic tunes of poetic haunt and verse. Guitars, harmonica, piano, accordion, violin, mandolin and more. Luxuriant textures and variant hues, elegantly woven and softly spun. And that husky voice -- well worn, emoting good and getting better all the time. If at times he recalls 'Bop Until You Drop' -- era Ry Cooder – cut through with a shot of Beat and belt of Waits - still he is very much his own man. Indeed, he is memorably possessed of his own fully formed, richly realised, yet still developing sound. As a guitar player Phelps typically eschews the showy in lieu of the subtle, and is all the more affecting for it. Increasingly, too, his words have taken on a rare, imagistic thrall all their own. On the new album, such crooked mystery, eloquently wrought, with snapshots and vignettes of ache and wonder and enigma hewn, he is a shadowy master of gnawing, crafted song.