Sunday, 2 December 2012

Albums For Life: 88: Kelly Joe Phelps: Sky Like a Broken Clock

This was a progression for Kelly Joe. Always a superb finger picker; maestro of the slide, his songs often played second fiddle to virtuoso displays of fretmanship. Where previously his blues progressions shaped the structures of the songwriting, here he sublimates that wild talent; effectively putting down the lap steel to sit on his hands and focus on story telling. He houses underbelly tales of the homeless and dysfunctional in the refuge of a warm band sound; it's less about performance, more about the song. The folksy vibe disappointed a lot of his old fans who admired him as a purist; a bluesman knee deep in the conventions that can constrict that genre.

Lyrically obtuse yet totally involving, these cliche free songs cast a cryptic eye on matters of the heart; often a heart of darkness, but still; all heart. If you want that particular organ massaged and squeezed a little, try and seek out the tall tale of 'Tommy' and his mice... I can't find it anywhere other than Spotify.
Here's 'Taylor John' from the album followed by a twitchy live performance of 'Beggar's Oil'. As ever his live performance reduces the song to it's raw essence, a taster; you really need to hear the album to get the full flavour of the stew.


  1. I have this on repeat in the background, Trevor, and find myself stopping everything to listen every so often. Kind of feels like worn shoes from the off, if you know what I mean. No blisters on my heels.

  2. He's addictive; if you like the band vibe the follow up 'Slingshot Professionals' is great too; particularly 'Not So Far to Go' and 'Waiting for Marty'.
    Those 'in the know' rate the earlier, rawer 'Shine Eyed Mister Zen' which features the fine 'River Rat Jimmy'.