Kelly Joe Phelps is playing a bunch of shows in New Zealand this week and next. In fact the tour started last night - I'll get to see him play this Sunday night, in Wellington. He's a great guitar player, a wonderful musician. So I'm pretty excited about this gig - I also really liked his most recent album, Brother Sinner and The Whale. In fact that - and I guess this upcoming gig - got me right back into his music; had me revisiting two of my favourite albums from a decade or so ago, his second album, 1997's Roll Away The Stone and 1999's Shine Eyed Mister Zen. I remember getting onto the name, checking out the music via a Rykodisc sampler - that was the label he was on. It was a strange label, but great; best known (to me anyway) for its reissues of Frank Zappa's albums; I also picked up a Yoko Ono compilation from Ryko and albums byRobert Wyatt and Sugar. And the shop sampler from the Ryko label - for instore play at the record shop where I worked - never got much use in the store so I took it home. And that was the start of checking out Kelly Joe Phelps
He was different again from anything else I knew on the label.
An extraordinary blues player - and you could certainly tell that the spirit and idea of country-blues, folk and gospel-tinged material ran deep. I was a big fan.
I kept up with his material over the year, mostly from working in music stores and/or being a reviewer - I missed one or two of his albums but I always went back, checked in.
But Brother Sinner and The Whale and the announcement of this tour got me right back in the zone, newly enthused for the old material, excited about seeing him live.
And then I had the chance to chat with him.
A super nice guy, a deep thinker, articulate, thoughtful, it was the sort of interview you always hope for and don't always get.
So that has me even more interested in the gig.
Also, Reeb Willms and Caleb Klauder have released a lovely close-harmony old-time country duets album which I really like; they're the opening act for the NZ tour by Kelly Joe Phelps. They might be reason enough to get along.
Any Kelly Joe Phelps fans out there? Anyone see last night's show? Or heading along later this week in the North Island or next week as he hits the South Island? Do you have any favourite albums or tunes he's interpreted?
And here is that interview I did with Kelly Joe Phelps, scholar and a gent.
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