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CD REVIEW: Kelly Joe Phelps - Sky Like a Broken Clock
By Ben Ohmart - 07/24/2001 - 03:11 PM EDT

Artist: Kelly Joe Phelps
Album: Sky Like a Broken Clock
CD Review: The 4th album from famed slide guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps is quite a departure for the guy. For one thing, the slide is gone. Whereas before he was one man and guitar, now he's got a bit of help; the most being from Rykodisc president George Howard who produced this bad boy hisself.

But immediately on the 1st track, 'Taylor John' is a poignant character study with a full band sound and a guttural-smooth chorus of ‘It’s a scavenger hunt in the best of times / A one-armed man with a box of dimes / Throw the stick and let the bulldog run.’

Like Dylan and the best of the folk-poetic set, the music is 2nd nature to the word pictures picked out on acoustic guitar and buck naked microphone. ‘A mustard seed is (has been said) / All that men will need / A filthy boy in a Bowery lane / Under the Times in a drowning rain / Stealing bits of sleep again / Has heard this common creed.’ That’s the simple style of ‘Beggar’s Oil,’ a very arresting sense of place and mystery. Old-timey? Perhaps. But more like uncurtained windows in a small town.

10 songs, 55 minutes. Ballads and homey prayers to life, and sermons to such ordinary days, the days and nights we all know and can never escape. Kelly is a real painter, with colors of blood, sweet, tears and ripe fruit juice.

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