Kelly Joe Phelps
With Slingshot Professionals, Kelly Joe Phelps moves away from the blues-based guitar histrionics that marked his earlier records and towards a more sedate, folkie style of presentation. And while the trademark sleepy strangeness of Phelps’s music is still largely intact (lyrically at least), overall, this record doesn’t quite work. His guitar playing is now primarily used as melodic accompaniment, instead of standing alone as a solo voice as in the past. Freed from the restraints of a blues song structure, he ventures into, but never really embraces, that sort of quiet energy that bands such as Willard Grant Conspiracy do so well. But where WGC’s music is unsettling and challenging without electricity, Phelps has sanded away almost all of his charming rough edges and left us with folk as background music. Even the presence of fellow fretman Bill Frisell or keyboardist Chris Gestrin don’t liven things up. While this is by no means a bad record, it is rather dull, and that’s the last thing we expected from Kelly Joe Phelps.