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My dad used to play Kelly Joe Phelps’ record “Shine Eyed Mister Zen” a good deal when I was in my formative years of realizing what music actually was and, like the other artists I heard then, I’ve never stopped listening. If I could I would sing and play like Phelps, with that smokey voice and a beautiful fluid versatility on slide that is only rivaled by Ry Cooder. This number, many of my readers may know, is a cover of an old Leadbelly song. It’s also a devastatingly beautiful song–back in the days when I had a radio show I closed my first and last shows with this song. Unfortunately, being a cover, this song fails to show you that KJP is also a poet with masterful lyrics. I suppose you’ll have to look him up and buy one or two of his albums to see for yourself. Start out buying “Shine Eyed Mister Zen,” it’s not his first album, and you can go back for “Lead Me On” later, but that’s the way I heard it and the way I still love it. If you think the blues is dead, you’re dead wrong.

2 responses to “Goodnight Irene

  1. mark ⋅

    And that’s exactly the way I discovered him, “Shine Eyed Mr. Zen” first and then the others. Not long after I discovered him I managed to see him play live in Newcastle, England, I was so blown away by what I saw and heard that the next day I went and spent all my money on a tone bar so I could play slide the same way, and I’ve never looked back. He is one of my guitar heroes and I feel like I owe him a lot. Thanks for this excellent post.

  2. mark ⋅

    Reblogged this on Blue Garage and commented:
    Excellent post about a truly great guitar player.

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