kelly joe phelps - western bell
American Exchange Hotel
Hometown With Melody
The Jenny Spin
East To Kansas
Music critic Thom Jurek praised the release in his Allmusic review, writing "Phelps has, on Western Bell, offered listeners a complete synthesis of his musical vision as a guitarist... Phelps infuses his own music with such comfort, space, and gentleness in his playing that what comes out is his own inviting but subjective history of blues as it has evolved in his spirit... Western Bell is among the most unique acoustic guitar recordings out there today... Cryptic, hushed, confoundingly beautiful, this is a brilliant, deeply moving work by an artist who has created a new language on the acoustic guitar, culled from the discontinued speech fragments of American music's own mysterious past." Chris Jones of the BBC wrote: "... while Phelps' lyrical work may sometimes be a little too intense for its own good, you find yourself missing his rasp. Such technically dazzling stuff can often be hard to really love, and it is a little over-egged. But when it's properly balanced with the glow of familiar chord progressions as on the appropriately-named 12-string track, Hometown With Melody, it's simply wonderful. One for fans."
Steve Pick of No Depression praised the Phelps' change in direction, writing "... often exquisite, and always intriguing, that his commercial divergence is our gain... Western Bell may be something more for those who miss the late, great John Fahey, or who wish Leo Kottke would drop his microphone and just play. There is definitely a sense of connection to those prior masters of acoustic guitar with folk and modernist ideas."
PopMatters critic Alan Ranta praised the album within the small niche of solo guitar: "In a world adequately full of praise for the likes of Leo Kottke and John Fahey, surely there is room for Washington’s Kelly Joe Phelps. His eighth album of solo acoustic guitar improvisation should be enough to land him status in the company of legends, if he isn’t there already... there is something undeniably moving about Western Bell... Phelps speaks directly to your soul. If that isn’t the stuff of legends, I don’t know what is."