Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Kelly Joe Phelps 

Sky Like a Broken Clock (Rykodisc)

39466.0.jpeg
Kelly Joe Phelps's first three albums established the young guitarist as one of the guiding lights of slide playing, as well as a folk/blues songwriter of incredible passion and grace. All three -- 1994's Lead Me On, 1997's Roll Away the Stone, and 1999's Shine Eyed Mister Zen -- were stripped-down showcases of Phelps's considerable gifts, illuminated in the glare of a single spotlight, as Phelps used his indie debut and major label follow-ups to document the naked beauty of his one-man live show. With his fourth album, Sky Like a Broken Clock, Phelps and producer/Rykodisc President George Howard concoct a slightly different atmosphere, in which Phelps's songs can breathe. The idea of adding a bassist and drummer against whom Phelps could play came just after he began writing more lyrically focused songs, signaling a growth that necessitated a slight change in direction. Thankfully, Phelps and Howard haven't tinkered with Phelps's core sound to the extent that it's unrecognizable.

The bass and drums that accompany Phelps on Sky Like a Broken Clock come courtesy of two fine players -- Tom Waits bassist Larry Taylor and Morphine drummer Billy Conway, both of whom know a thing or two about subtlety and space. Phelps, feeling that he's thoroughly examined his slide talents, takes this opportunity to flesh out his songs and find his place in front of an ensemble. Although "Beggar's Oil" puts Phelps in familiar man-and-guitar territory, the rest of Broken Clock is a wildly successful transition from what he usually has done by himself. Taylor, Conway, cellist David Henry, and keyboardist Tom West all combine to make a sound that's as sparse and vulnerable as anything that Phelps has accomplished on his own and stays true to his dark and seductive sonic vision.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.

More by Brian Baker

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 9, 2020

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

Staff Pick Events

  • Open Turntable Tuesday @ The Winchester

    • Tuesdays

© 2020 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation