Review and photograph by M.R. Poulopoulos
The first time I heard Kelly Joe Phelps (KJP), I had to put down my fork and walk over to the computer to find out just what in the hell Pandora Internet Radio was playing. I was literally moved. Had I a fork in front of me during Phelps’ Tuesday night performance at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, it would have sat still on the table, and the meal gone cold. The man’s solo performance captivated, despite the occasional chatter scattered amongst the 60 or so people in attendance – not nearly a full room for the joint, but pretty good for a Tuesday.
Switching between an open-tuned steel National resonator and a standard-tuned Martin D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative, Phelps became a river through which flowed blues, spiritual, country and gospel music, all of them caught up in soulful currents; at times a torrent of notes ran across a bluesy minor scale, and at others an inspirational and slow-moving cascade of vocals descended from the source of all major rivers.