Home Read Classic Album Review: Kelly Joe Phelps | Slingshot Professionals

Classic Album Review: Kelly Joe Phelps | Slingshot Professionals

With his fifth album, the world-class guitarist truly evolved into a great songwriter.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


All the way back on his 1995 debut album Lead Me On, it was obvious Kelly Joe Phelps was a great guitarist. Over the course of his last few discs, however, the Portland neo-bluesman has evolved into something even more interesting — a great songwriter.

Slingshot Professionals, his fifth CD, follows the path set on 1999’s Shine Eyed Mister Zen and 2001’s Sky Like A Broken Clock. Once again backburnering his trusty slide for delicate and earthy fingerpicking, Phelps submits 10 lazily rambling, hypnotically melancholy folk-blues tales of ginger-haired women, sinkhole men and love, sweet love, using his dusty sunset voice to colour surreal Tom Waitsian couplets like, “A jagged spoon, a broken dish / Real as Uncle Benzedrine, a last life wish.” Recorded partly in Toronto and Vancouver, the 50-minute disc — which features guests like guitar virtuoso Bill Frisell, singer Petra Haden and Canuck folkies Zubot and Dawson — exudes a loose, ragtag grace, with plenty of subtle interplay between the musicians. But they never come close to upstaging Phelps, whose ever-growing artistry makes Slingshot Professionals a continual joy to behold.