Kelly Joe Phelps Interview

(Originally aired on November 29, 2012)

Early in his career, Kelly Joe Phelps made a name for himself as one of the finest lapslide players of our time, and his late-’90s solo albums — the gospel-infused Roll Away the Stone and darkly poetic Shine Eyed Mister Zen — contain some of the most technically advanced acoustic lap slide ever captured on disc. Most guitarists would be happy to stick to one style if it brought them the kind of acclaim Phelps generated with his syncopated fingerpicking and nimble bar work, but his muse called him to investigate other sounds, and over the years his albums have featured mountain-style banjo, small ensembles, folk duets, and even edgy dissonance, as evidenced by his 2009 solo-guitar release, the instrumental Western Bell.

Once again Phelps has taken a new tack with his music, this time turning to bottleneck slide, rather than the lap style that brought him initial success. On his latest album, Brother Sinner & The Whale, Phelps sings about loss and redemption using lyrics inspired by the Bible’s Book of Jonah. In our exclusive interview, Phelps describes recording Brother Sinner & The Whale and explains why he chose to play bottleneck guitar on this album instead of lap slide. We'll hear selections from Brother Sinner throughout the interview.