Kelly Joe Phelps ‎– Brother Sinner & The Whale

Black Hen Music ‎– BHCD-0070

Tracklist Hide Credits

1 Talkin' To Jehova
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
2 Goodbye To Sorrow
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
3 Hope In The Lord To Provide
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
4 Pilgrim's Reach
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
5 Spit Me Outta The Whale
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
6 Sometimes A Drifter
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
7 Hard Time They Never Go Away
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
8 I've Been Converted
Written By – Traditional
9 The Holy Spirit Flood
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
10 Down To The Praying Ground
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
11 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehova
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps
12 Brother Pilgrim
Written By – Kelly Joe Phelps



Produced by Steve Dawson at The Henhouse - Vancouver, B.C.

© & ℗ 2012 Black Hen Music. All Rights Reserved.
Made in Canada.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode: 0875531008371


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January 25, 2017
I wasn't sure I wanted to write this review or not ... I've been thinking about it for a very long time, and decided that my words were as valid as those of Kelly Joe, and folks might just want to fully understand what they're getting themselves in for.

Phelps had an inquisitive mind and restless spirit that have always carried him forward and moved into new forms of expression, though experimentation [he’d like you to believe] comes at a costs. When his album Western Bell baffled not only his record company but puzzled many of his fans, and failed to expand his audience, Phelps laid low, he withdrew from recording in search for a new direction, for something that may be more accessible. He ‘claims’ that unexpectedly, inspiration came through a re-­examination of his christian [small c] roots, and resulted in an unexpected flurry of creative activity that gave birth to a whole new set of songs and a reinvigorated approach to playing the guitar as Phelps opted to play bottleneck rather than his customary lap slide to achieve a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on a classic John Fahey record, though the message surely would.

Of course this is how Phelps likes to see things, when the truth of the matter is, the man found that drugs, drink, and an endless series of bad tattoos caused him to hit bottom and hit hard. And like most all people who feel that they they can not be responsible for their own lives, Phelps turned to god, fell on his knees, and put the responsibility for his life in an imaginary being, and in short, became a christian musician, a shill for god, where he found a ready made flock willing to follow him. Trouble is, he doesn’t tell you that before you book a ticket to his show … so there you sit, you’ve paid your money intent on hearing some bluesy material, but instead you get preached to. Yeah, this is called subversion, bait and switch, leaving you no choice but to up and leave not only the show, but your money at the ticket window.

With song titles like “Talking to Jehovah,” “I’ve been Converted” and “The Holy Spirit Flood,” there’s no escaping that something has gone sideways, something that thematically changed in Kelly Joe’s world. Phelps’ lyrics fuse poetry from the Book of Jonah and claims a kinship with the vintage gospel blues of Mississippi John Hurt [though there is no evidence to support Hurt’s christian beliefs] with aspects of the early gospel work of Bill and Charlie Monroe thrown in for good measure, professing that these songs must surely be the most literary gospel songs recorded since Bob Dylan’s adventure down the same road decades ago.

Phelps explains some of the motivation behind the new songs. “I’d arrived at a place where I was sinking. I had to do something or my head was going to blow up or my heart would stop. When I found a way to allow myself to open up to creative impulse, this is what was staring me in the face and I did not want to say no to anything.” This change was bewildering to those who’ve followed Kelly Joe’s music. He’d like you to believe that this change isn’t too surprising as it represents a natural growth from the rural routes his music has traveled until now. He goes on to say, “This is going to be referred to as a gospel record, I suppose. The music is presented in an ancient form, but it’ll sound contemporary because of the way I play and write. But, thematically, I’m basing my compositional approach on old styles like the old blues and folk guys played.”

But it is a surprise Mr. Phelps … you had the choice of making time honored music that would last forever, or thinking that you could save your ragged bones by selling out to a higher power, thinking that we’d all follow along. But not me, I dropped Dylan when he failed to take responsibility for his own life. What makes you think that I’d follow you down that same path of irresponsibility?

Of course, on the other hand, if you’re a christian, and you like to be endlessly reminded that you are nothing without a mystic magical being defining your life, then you just might enjoy this album.

Review by Jenell Kesler