Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues
Cardboard Box of Batteries
I Am the Light of the World
All songs written by Kelly Joe Phelps (Pilgrim's Way Publishing/BMI, Administered by Bug) except "Hard Time Killin'" Floor Blues by Nehemiah Skip James (Wynwood Music Co./BMI) and "I Am the Light of This World" by Reverend Gary Davis (Chandos Music Co./ASCAP)
Kelly Joe Phelps - vocals, acoustic
Recording and Mixing Engineer: Shawn Pierce Mastering Engineer: Greg Calbi
Recorded at McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
Mixed at MX Solutions, Vancouver, British Columbia Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York City
Design: Gwen Terpstra
Photography: Michael Wilson
Rykodisc RecordsSong List:
"Seven albums into his career,
the jazz guitarist turned acoustic country blues man has increasingly
been balancing old standards an forgotten nuggets with his own material.
For 'Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind', his current live album, the only
non originals included are Skip James' "Hard Time Killin' Floor
Blues" and Rev. Gary Davis' "I am the Light of the World",
and while this may not delight the traditionalists it's difficult
to raise much cause for complaint when you hear dusty voiced Phelps
picking his way through the hauntingly plaintive "Cardboard
Box of Batteries" or the melancholic "Not So Far to Go"."
'Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind', featuring just the sound of his flying
finger work and world-weary vocals, distills his music close to
its very essence."
of Phelps from acoustic blues copyist to audaciously original singer-songwriter
has been thrilling to behold. His first live album captures him
in both styles, with jaw-dropping covers of "Killin' Floor
Blues" and "I Am the Light of the World", plus seven
of his own compositions, which illustrate his rare ability to create
memorable characters and compelling narratives in half a dozen verses.
In little over an hour he draws you into the world of his songs
to the point where everything else ceases to exist." - Nigel
Williamson Uncut (UK)
Poet of the Badlands
"When you listen to 'Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind', the badlands of South Dakota come to mind: scorched plains, tumble-down barns, and scrawny dogs lolling aimlessly in the sun. Phelps is an man with lyricism deep within his bones, a poet to rival Tom Waits and possibly even Cohen and Dylan.
The musicianship can be rated just as highly. Phelps's guitar playing is exquisite." - Red Popper (UK)
There are few artists who offer the raw sincerity and accomplished musical acumen that guitarist, singer and songwriter Kelly Joe Phelps does. From his first offering, "Lead Me On", on the Burnside label through his subsequent studio outings for Rykodisc, Phelps has done something remarkable: forged himself a solid identifying mark as a folk and blues musician of distinction in fields that owe so much to the past latter day performers are usually crushed under the weight of them. Tap The Red Cane Whirlwind (blue ital.) is a collection of solo live performances recorded in California in 2004. Lee Townsend who has long been affiliated with him, produced the set. It opens with a nine and a half minute version of Skip James' "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues." Phelps snakily moves the tune through various modes and modulations, delving deep into Delta blues tonalities and backside melodies that open up spaces inside it. His voice, smoky and sweetly raspy is never harsh, though it often sounds like it is inhabited by ghosts. It's a stunner. The other cover here is a smoking version of the late Rev. Gary Davis's "I am The Light Of This World." Dignfied, soulful and spot on musically, Phelps is a dynamite guitarist who adds, subtracts and morphs figures onto the original fingerstyle lines, and uses his voice to offer evidence of the timelessness of the lyric. And as moving and virtuosic as these two performances are, it's his own songs that offer the true prize of this collection. There's "Jericho," with its spooky droning bassline just under some slippery, winding fingerstyle playing, all of it support a vocal that comes from some lost world, just beyond the pale to impart a tale from antiquity that weighs heavily on the forbidding present juncture. The stinging folk blues of "Gold Tooth," showcases Phelps ability to make the strings literally dance as his singing tugs at the end of lines while driving others deeper into the spectral groove. The tenderness inherent in "Waiting For Marty" is elegiac, full of sepia tones and the notion of bittersweet memory. Here is the place where longing, regret for a life squandered and the acceptance of things as they are, even as they drift away into ether and invisible history, is, literally, unlike any other song out there. Simply stated, if there is one recording that captures the sum of the magic, power, and poetry that is Kelly Joe Phelps, this one's it. - Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
"Like the sound of some impossible invention built from theremin, pedal steel, saw, omnichord, sitar and the whir of hummingbirds, the sound of Kelly Joe Phelps' guitar has no derivation and no blueprint, save his own soul. He sings with an urgent, slurred whisper (like he hears the law outside the juke-joint door), and he writes songs -- sometimes visionary, mostly sustained by the holy blues -- with creative gravitas that's soaked in all the experiences of a life deeply lived. One doesn't expect such lyrical and vocal talent from virtuoso guitar improvisers. Like Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt, Phelps reconfigures the blues with every pluck and breath. Like no one else filed under "folk," he creates his own tradition." By Roy Kasten, Riverfront Times
On his last couple of albums, Kelly Joe Phelps had moved from the solo
work of his earlier efforts to fronting studio bands. On this first
live album of his career, Phelps is back in a solo setting playing longer,
extended versions of songs like "Jericho" and "Fleashine"
from the band albums. As always, Phelps¹s guitar playing, rooted
in the styles of the old blues masters and tempered with a jazz-like
improvisatory imagination, hypnotically pulls the listener deeply into
his often-impressionistic lyrics. Phelps also stretches out on long
renditions of Skip James¹s Hard Time Killin¹ Floor Blues and
Reverend Gary Davis¹s I Am the Light of the World that demonstrate
his deep-from-the-well understanding of traditional blues and gospel