TIME OUT
By ROSS FORTUNE
June 20-27, 2001

Fourth album from the shine-eyed Mister Zen of the acoustic slide guitar, and it marks a notable step forward from his former (gloriously realised) works of solo bluesy introspection. Progress and change can be a tricky thing in contemporary blues - witness Alvin Youngblood Hart's boldly eclectic Beefheartian advances, or Eric Bibb's rather less successful experiments with electrification - but Phelps manages to stay true, move forward, keep the faith and sow the seeds for further future development with rare comfort and ease. So, here he is subtley augmented by the pluck, pull, putter and stomp of Tom Waits sideman Larry Taylor on string bass and Morphine drummer/percussionist Billy Conway. With the further addition of cello and Hammond organ, it makes for a tenderly expressive sound - perfectly suited to Phelps's husky, emotive drawl. No more the doff of the cap to Dock Boggs or Skip James, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Mississippi Fred McDowell, this is pure Phelps. A git up, lay down, moonlight throb. A hip shake boogie. A long desirous backyard moan of busted hearts, greased-up good and bent down low.

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