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Music Consumption: Joel R.L. Phelps
02/05/1999 Joel R.L. Phelps: 3

Joel Phelps: Warm Springs Night and The Downer Trio EP

Based in part on the beyond-amazing experience of "3" and Eric Hahn's recommendation (both on his excellent Phelps and Silkworm pages and in email), I picked up the first Phelps solo disc and the EP. And they're amazing. Joel Phelps has to be one of our great songwriters, and you're seriously missing out if you haven't checked out these recordings (and "3", too). Warm Springs Night is louder than what I expected, kind of like what Crazy Horse would sound like without a bassist, but with an extended tonal palette. The songs are incredibly moving, too, but you probably don't want to listen to it when you're deeply depressed. Or maybe you might.

The immediate standouts for me are "The Graze and the Graves," "Warm Springs Night," "Lady Lucero," and "All We Want," but the others are good, too. It's an interesting halfway point between Silkworm and "3".

The EP hasn't walloped me the way the longer disc has, but that doesn't mean it won't grab you. The three Phelps originals (not counting the uncredited and probably original instrumental) are again excellent--"Razorback" is somehow lightheartedly sad, and subtly catchy. I haven't gotten a handle on "Good Advice for Dogs" yet, other than this is one where he finally pushes his voice too hard, and his pitch diverts from the song completely. "At El Paso" could well have been a hit somewhere--uptempo and open, but haunting and sad. The two covers are good, too.

There's something very old about this music, an oldness at its core, that makes up a big part of what moves me. It's like the land--vast, wide open, and old.