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Kelly Joe Phelps

Western Bell

(Black Hen; US: 17 Mar 2009; UK: Available as import)

In a world adequately full of praise for the likes of Leo Kottke and John Fahey, surely there is room for Washington’s Kelly Joe Phelps. His eighth album of solo acoustic guitar improvisation should be enough to land him status in the company of legends, if he isn’t there already. Granted, it’s a pretty small scene for this kind of music, and one I am admittedly not really a part of, yet there is something undeniably moving about Western Bell. Through all of the weird tunings and rambling melodies, when a listener resigns him or herself to intently listening to Kelly’s lone guitar, fighting back the darkness one plunk at a time, an odd sort of poetry arises. Like a hero of the high plains, roaming nameless to wherever God deems his services necessary, Phelps speaks directly to your soul. If that isn’t the stuff of legends, I don’t know what is.

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Compelled to words by music since 2004, Ranta's words have appeared in such esteemed publications as Exclaim!, Tiny Mix Tapes, CBC Music, and PopMatters. He also regularly votes for the Polaris Music Prize, Village Voice Pazz & Jop, Juno Awards, and in all local, provincial, and federal elections. Based in East Vancouver, he's been known to a rave and/or rant, cat whisper, play basketball, pessimistically root for the Canucks, and read far too many comment sections. He graduated with distinction from SFU in 2012, with a bachelor's degree in music.


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