KELLY JOE PHELPS INTERVIEW #1
(Originally aired on March 19, 2009)
In addition to being an ace fingerstyle guitarist and singer/songwriter, Kelly Joe Phelps is a lap-slide virtuoso. In his formative years, Phelps was a bass player, performing free jazz and improvised music. After hearing Mississippi Fred McDowell and other acoustic blues musicians, Phelps began exploring folk and country blues, often accompanying himself on slide guitar. His third record, 1999's Shine Eyed Mr. Zen, remains one of the finest lap-slide albums of modern times.
With his 2009 release, Western Bell, Phelps merges his free-jazz past with his alt-folk present to create an unflinchingly intimate collection of solo guitar instrumentals. Armed with his lap-slide guitar and 6- and 12-string acoustics, Phelps evokes the spirit of Thelonious Monk, Lead Belly, and Blind Willie Johnson in unexpected and beautiful ways. In our exclusive interview, Phelps describes recording this musically adventurous work.