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Tunesmith Retrofit

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 1, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Tunesmith Retrofit is Phelps' Rounder Records debut. "There are few artists who offer the raw sincerity and accomplished musical acumen that guitarist, singer and songwriter Kelly Joe Phelps does... - All Music Guide. Although his musical foundation remains country-blues and folk music, there's nothing traditional or predictable about Phelps' lyrical approach, which features distinctive images and refreshing turns of phrase. Tunesmith Retrofit includes tributes to Dave Van Ronk and to the recently deceased songwriter/guitarist Chris Whitley.

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Like the late Chris Whitley (to whom the banjo-driven "Handful of Arrows" is dedicated), Kelly Joe Phelps initially built a following through the sharpness of his chops, but would rather be known for the strength of his songs. Thus this stripped-down exercise in musical intimacy draws attention to lyrics set to homespun melodies, with an occasional fiddle, pedal steel, melodica, or keyboard augmenting Phelps's acoustic accompaniment. Though there's a stately grace to country-tinged tunes such as "The Anvil" and "Tight to the Jar," some of his wordcraft is so oblique and self-consciously poetic that it resists translation. From the opening of "Loud as Ears": "Old, dark ruby coats his throat / gloves a feathered mind / sharpens up her fountain pen." Huh? Yet the music is always eloquent, and there's a tenderness to Phelps's Dylanesque phrasing. With three instrumentals among the dozen tracks, he pays tribute to Dave Van Ronk on "MacDougal," with the sort of ragtime picking that made its way from the Mississippi Delta to the Greenwich Village folk scene. --Don McLeese
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 1, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • ASIN: B000G5SIB2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,845 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
so much yearning in that voice -- bottom and top -- no other guitar player can make the instrument swim such deep currents --each release of his is full of surprise and nuance -- and his stories sit with you -- they're full of eyes. "Spanish Hands" and "Crow's Nest" are highlights...
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is an amazing CD full of songs that will bring you on a ride, and hold you there. His voice weaves with his playing to combine into perfect solid songs. Kelly's banjo playing does not fall short of his guitar virtuoso. One of his best so far. Go to his website and go see him live you will not be disappointed! Highlights are - Crows Nest - Big Shaky - Handful of Arrows - Plumb Line -
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Format: Audio CD
Another great release from kelly joe phelps. I count seven of his cds hangin' around my house now, and I love `em all like adopted children. What's wrong with this world? Why isn't this man more famous? I want answers!
This album is a folk masterpiece. Song poems sung beautifully. And mr phelps is about as fluid and mesmerizing a guitar picker as you'll hear. His wonderful voice and guitarwork dominate this album. Stark and perfect. The opening track, "crow's nest," has some fine violin accompaniment, "scapegoat" is an amazing piece of banjo wizardry, and "handful of arrows" is a great ballad performed with banjo. A little piano, a little organ, some pedal steel, other than that it's pretty much acoustic guitar pickin' and singing. And stuff of this quality is doggone rare. Someday, hopefully, mr phelps' discography will be as large as, say, john coltrane's, or duke ellington's. I'm greedy. I want lots and lots of this kinda work. Now buy the thing already. You should.
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Format: Audio CD
Alluring will-o-the-wisp melodies with allusive lyrics. Delightful expressive playing with nary a note wasted. Endlessly fascinating. Get it on vinyl for the full magical effect.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
How KJP has gone seemingly unrecognized is beyond me. The voice is something that I will cherish for a long time. Oh and he is one hell of a picker as well. It all comes together on this album. Buy it today. You will not be disappointed.
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