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Classic Album Review: Joel R.L. Phelps & The Downer Trio | Inland Empires

The former Silkworm leader turns a diverse slate of covers into personal, moving fare.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Former Silkworm leader Joel R.L. Phelps spins a few other artists’ tales on his fourth solo release Inland Empires.

Returning to the spare, country-influenced sound of his earlier works, Phelps offers pared-down, mournful versions of Fleetwood Mac (Songbird), Townes Van Zandt (Our Mother the Mountain), Iris Dement (Calling for You, My Life), Steve Earle (Someday) and — in the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others category — The Go-Betweens (Apology Accepted). Only one original tune appears — Now You Are Found, an elegy for his sister. But Phelps’ haunted, whispering delivery and the bare-bones, ramshackle musical approach inject these tracks with more than enough idiosyncracy to make Inland Empires more personal and moving than your typical covers disc.