September 2001

Fourth album from American slide guitar hero leaves blues behind

This is something of a departure for the young, white bluesman, with not a 12-bar repetition in sight. After three LPs on which his mastery of the slide guitar took centre stage, culminating in 1999's superb Shine Eyed Mister Zen, Sky Like A Broken Clock finds him expanding his musical vision. With his own guitar work backed by a shit-hot rhythm section of string bassman Larry Taylor on loan from Tom Waits' band and former Morphine drummer Billy Conway, Phelps sings with a sure, expressive voice, which ranges from true grit to haunting falsetto. There's a quantum leap in his own darkly compelling songwriting, which at times is even reminiscent of the great Waits himself. ***