Singing the Blues in Milngavie

BLUES guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps is appearing at The Milngavie Folk Club, on Thursday January 24.

It will be the only 2013 gig he is doing in Scotland and his first solo concert north of the border for five years.

The singer songwriter who lives in Washington continues to expand the parameters of modern blues through his strong commitment to literary songs and his expressive yet simple guitar stylings.

While casual listeners may call Phelps a bluesman, his playing is so fluid, dexterous, and improvised he obviously has the soul of a jazz musician.

He was raised in a music-loving household in Sumner, Washington, near Tacoma. The son of Seventh Day Adventist parents. Phelps’ father was an air conditioning and refrigeration specialist and his mother worked as a housewife and Tupperware salesperson.

His dad played guitar, fiddle, piano, and harmonica while his mother played guitar and some banjo. All these influenced his later development.

He liked country and western music, but also developed an ear for blues, and brought home albums by Meade “Lux” Lewis, Pete Johnson, and other boogie-woogie piano players.

The musician got interested in jazz guitar when he was in his teens and paid close attention to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Led Zeppelin.

He later switched from jazz to blues while he was still living in Portland, Oregon, because he saw the blues as a way to continue expanding his parameters and challenging himself.

In 1980 he moved to Portland, Oregon and there he found equally vibrant jazz and blues scenes in the jazz clubs he frequented. He spent the better part of the next 10 years playing bass in small jazz groups, but at home and in private, he would continue to play guitar, occasionally experimenting with a slide, to coax bluesier tunes from his instrument.

In the late ‘80s, Phelps heard an album by classic acoustic bluesman Mississippi Fred MacDowell that turned his career around and put him on the road to where he is today.

Doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £14 with support act by Paul Malcolm. Tickets are available from www.milngaviefolkclub.co.uk; Milngavie Bookshop on Douglas Street or Art Forum, Station Rd (both Milngavie); or phone 07743885991 for reservations only.