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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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Author of blurbs, curator of playlists, and booker of shows, Alan Ranta has been plugging away at that music writing and programming thing since 2004. His brutally honest critical opinion has appeared in such publications as Exclaim!, CBC Music, PopMatters and Tiny Mix Tapes, and has been enlisted to help judge the Polaris Music Prize, Pazz & Jop, and Juno Awards. Based in East Van, he graduated with a BFA in music from Simon Fraser University in 2012. He's also a social media plague, cat whisperer, socio-political haranguer, Canucks fan, and one of the last remaining cowboys, with a butt that won't quit.


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