Kelly Joe Phelps | Western Bell

Go To Artist Page

Recommended if You Like
Bill Frisell John Fahey Leo Kottke

Album Links

More Artists From
United States - Oregon

Other Genres You Will Love
Blues: Finger-Picked Guitar Folk: Fingerstyle Moods: Type: Instrumental
There are no items in your wishlist.

Western Bell

by Kelly Joe Phelps

RELEASE DATE - March 24th - Long-hailed for his virtuosic and courageous playing, these eleven instrumentals for solo guitar are an intimate look at Phelps’ inner creative and emotional world. T
Genre: Blues: Finger-Picked Guitar
Release Date: 

We'll ship when it's back in stock

Order now and we'll ship when it's back in stock, or enter your email below to be notified when it's back in stock.
Sign up for the CD Baby Newsletter
Your email address will not be sold for any reason.
Continue Shopping


To listen to tracks you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.

Sorry, there has been a problem playing the clip.

  song title
artist name
1. Western Bell
Share this song!
3:08 album only
2. Sovereign Wyoming
Share this song!
3:58 album only
3. Blowing Dust 40 Miles
Share this song!
4:46 album only
4. American Exchange Hotel
Share this song!
2:27 album only
5. Hometown With Melody
Share this song!
4:19 album only
6. Hattie\'s Hat
Share this song!
4:27 album only
7. The Jenny Spin
Share this song!
4:47 album only
8. Murdo
Share this song!
4:41 album only
9. East To Kansas
Share this song!
3:56 album only
10. Blue Daughter Tattoo
Share this song!
4:47 album only
11. Little Family
Share this song!
3:57 album only
preview all songs


Album Notes
At some point, the rearview mirror gets too fat. So crowded, so saturated with the recorded miles and miles of what's back there, it just falls off the windshield. Then you turn and go home.

After a decade and a half of traveling the world – occasionally with a band, but usually alone with a guitar – Kelly Joe Phelps’ rearview might've fallen off the windshield. Western Bell, his eighth full-length album, could be the soundtrack to his first mirror-cleaning sit-down in a long while. Some stuff winds up on the mantle (the photo of the Montana ranch where he helped herd cattle); some stuff winds up tattooed on his arms (a whole lot of names, or the pirate that says, "Be Kind").

Long-hailed for his virtuosic and courageous playing, these eleven instrumentals for solo guitar feel different somehow. It’s as though the audience has been removed from the equation – not momentarily ignored, but removed entirely –- leaving the compelling sensation of peering through a keyhole. "Where's the slide?" they used to yell – really yell – at the guy up there playing some of the most unstraightest straight guitar ever set down. "Play the slide! Shine-eyed!" Well, after a four-record slide hiatus, a few cuts ("Blowing Dust 40 Miles," the vast "The Jenny Spin," and "Little Family") feature Phelps laying it down horizontally again, but lawd knows not for those folks. More sonically investigative than ever, and simply wrought with emotion, the results are spellbinding.

Technically speaking, the vast majority of the numbers are improvised on the spot, some in tunings so backasswards that only the most basic elements of a "guitar piece" remain – vibrato, the occasional alternating thumb, the clack of a bar on a steel string. In these instances, Phelps seems to deconstruct the very engine that's carried him around the world, lay the guts on the floor, and set to rebuilding a machine precisely in tune with the necessaries. No drag.

And herein we find the shining black center of Western Bell, of Phelps himself perhaps, sifting through the engrained muscle memory of years of playing, the record collection, the poems, women, other on-ramps. Incredibly personal, these ruminations reflect a soul busy coming to terms with its scope and parameters, past & future. Visions of big sky, ant hills in fast-forward, her laugh when she drank.

Others, like the curtain-parting title cut, or the love-drunk stumble of "Hattie's Hat," are compositions so fully formed, so flecked with the ghosts of American Music, you'd swear they've existed for generations. Sinatra could slide into "Murdo," & Gershwin could have written it. Leadbelly, Bill Evans, from stomps to carnivals, and all with mojo – as quick as an allusion is recognized, it's gone again. Beautiful, innovative, and inspired.

There are only a handful of truly seminal solo guitar recordings in circulation, ones that forever transport both audience and genre. Add one more to the list. Here is Kelly Joe Phelps’ Western Bell.


to write a review


Clock Unwinding and Risk Taking at Twitter Speed
This is the music that guitars secretly play while we think they are resting inside their cases.

Agitated, frayed and more parallel than harmonic, it strangely soothes. Jazz in a blender? Rusty scramble of pentatonic lug nuts scattered across the leg is shorter than the other but I can dance.


Chrisr at CD Baby

This famed fingerstyle and blues guitarist gets adventurous with 11 improvisatory pieces that are meant to shake things up. Kelly Joe Phelps stretches his technique to just-this-side of the breaking point, utilizing alternate tunings, strange rhythms, odd fingerings, and a general lack of regard for tradition. That being said, though, he also draws from a deep well of skill, experience, and passion when conjuring these experimental creations. Phelps demonstrates that, even for a master, there are always new textures to uncover, new territories to explore. Oh, and he is playing the slide again, too!