Songwriting with fresh wrinkles on Tunesmith Retrofit
Now in his late forties, Kelly Joe Phelps continues to
evolve, as both a musician and songwriter, while operating deep in the
most conservative of folk-blues traditions.
Having long established himself as one of the key acoustic slide guitarists
of his generation, the soft-spoken boy from Portland, Oregon has more
recently turned his attention primarily to singing and songwriting, a
trend which continues, albeit with some fresh wrinkles, on Tunesmith
Retrofit. “I’ve been waiting a long time/to get these
stories out.” he sings on Crow’s Nest, his soulful
drawl accompanied by his own nimble finger-picking and a campfire violin.
On Scapegoat, a brief instrumental track, he plays a breakneck
banjo part, which incorporates touches of blues and even a hint of flamenco,
while on Big Shaky, he settles into the backporch territory
of JJ Cale, this time adding sprightly touches of melodica. It is another
thoughtful collection of tunes from the American byways, performed with
the effortless grace of a master.