Home Read Classic Album Review: Kelly Joe Phelps | Sky Like a Broken Clock

Classic Album Review: Kelly Joe Phelps | Sky Like a Broken Clock

The guitarist conjures up his most beautifully evocative and mournful narratives.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Country-blues guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps has spent most of his career following in the footsteps of legends like Skip James, Fred McDowell, Dock Boggs and Mississippi John Hurt. He’s absorbed their music, mastered their styles, covered their tunes and retooled their sounds into songs of his own.

On his fourth album Sky Like A Broken Clock, Phelps finally cuts the umbilical cord, eschewing the classic covers and traditional titles he has peppered every other album with. And he conjures up 10 of the most beautifully evocative and mournful narratives of his career. Tragic short stories with titles like Taylor John, Clementine, Tommy and Sally Ruby, these literary, Tom Waits-style biographies of luckless, loveless losers are voiced in his sad rasp and played live in the studio with ragtag grace and spontaneity by a loosely rehearsed combo. Phelps obviously learned his lessons well; now the student has surpassed his teachers.