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Kelly Joe Phelps

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Kelly Joe Phelps (born 5 October 1959, Sumner, Washington) is an American musician and songwriter. His music has been characterized as a mixture of delta blues and jazz.

Kelly Joe Phelps grew up in Sumner, Washington, a blue-collar and farming town. He learned country and folk songs, as well as drums and piano, from his father. He began playing guitar at 12.

Phelps concentrated on free jazz and took his cues from musicians like Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. He spent 10 years playing jazz, mostly as a bass player. He refers to his “conversion” to a blues musician when he began listening to acoustic blues masters like Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams.

Initally gaining notice for his solo lapstyle slide guitar playing, which he played by laying the instrument flat and fretting it with a heavy steel bar, he has incorporated more ensemble work in his later albums. Inspired by the birth of his daughter Rachel in 1990, Phelps began writing songs. He began singing and released his critically praised debut, Lead Me On, in 1995. This album showcased Phelps’ craft, and as well as his own songs, he tackled traditional numbers such as “Motherless Children” and “Fare Thee Well.”

He released his second album, Roll Away the Stone (1997) and followed it up with 1999’s, Shine Eyed Mister Zen.

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