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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

In Brief

*** Kelly Joe Phelps, "Sky Like a Broken Clock," RykoDisc.

July 15, 2001|STEVE HOCHMAN

There's immediate appeal to the clarity of this Washington state musician's fourth album, on which he has abandoned his forced, slide-guitar faux-blues for a mix of Nick Drake grace, Bruce Cockburn stoicism and early Tom Waits barfly poetics. The spare acoustic atmospheres, built around Phelps' nimble but never showy fingerpicking and just-gruff-enough voice, are perfect for his sharp-eyed character studies--though it's still too familiar to hold true distinction. Phelps plays the Largo on Wednesday and Thursday.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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