Born into a religious home to music-loving and -playing parents, Kelly Joe Phelps was exposed to various styles of popular music (country & western, boogie-woogie, etc.) at an early age. Throughout his youth, the guitarist and singer soaked up jazz music and went on to play bass in various jazz outfits. In the late 1980s, the Washington State native experienced a musical epiphany upon hearing a recording by acoustic blues master Mississippi Fred MacDowell. With 1994's Lead Me On, Phelps developed a country-blues repertoire that mixed original compositions with standards, all the while featuring his rough-hewed, intimate vocals and remarkable technical six-string chops. Recent releases include Tunesmith Retrofit (2006), Western Bell (2009) and Brother Sinner and the Whale (2012).