Two forces came together and motivated me to record "Give Us a Song." One was the song "My Dog Jesus." After adding it to my repertoire, people at shows would always ask, "Which CD has the song about the dog on it?" I had to make a CD that I could hold up and say, "This one!"
The other was a voice from my past. I received an email from a college friend asking if I was the same Dean Phelps that used to play guitar in the courtyard of a dorm complex at the University of Kentucky.
When I wrote back and told that I was, indeed that Dean Phelps, I found out that she still had in her possession a cassette that I had recorded for her and her roommate when we were students at U.K. together in the 1970s. Hearing that cassette brought back a flood of memories, and it also inspired me to return to the studio.
Give Us a Song gets back to my acoustic singer-songwriter roots with covers of songs by Paul Simon, Jonathan Edwards, Kate Wolf and Bob Dylan. Of course, "My Dog Jesus" is a highlight of the recording. The CD includes a new original tune, "If You Come Up Empty."
Being as much a refinisher of old songs as a creator of new music, I also included new arrangements of traditional hymns and gospel music. Thumb-style guitar creates a toe-tapping accompaniment for "Precious Memories," and the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" uses the combination of finger-style guitar and vocal instrumentation to craft an ending to the recording that I'm especially pleased with.
"An amazing sounding album which combines great harmonies with fantastic songs that at times are played with just an acoustic guitar; all of which is to Phelps advantage and certainly a joy to hear." (5 out of 5 stars) Maverick Magazine, March 2009.