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  Kelly Joe Phelps live @ the Knitting Factory
with the Zubot & Dawson Band

New York City
March 12th, 2003

Kelly Joe Phelps - vocals, guitar
Steve Dawson - weissenborn
Jesse Zubot - violin & mandolin
Eliot Polsky - drums, percussion
Keith Lowe - acoustic bass

recorded to MD

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I love this place. It's a grungy out-of-the-way venue in lower Manhattan. A refreshing look-the-other-way attitude towards taping. All one has to do is get there early and as it's sit-where-you-will seating, head right for the upstairs and get a front row balcony seat. Which I did. And after setting up both the MD and DAT (recorded on both as I'm not 100% familiar with the DAT controls yet) - taping the mics that fed the DAT to the front of the balcony (out of voice-shot so I could whishper safely to Sarah (met through an exchange of e-mails after she read review of last December's show I posted to the official KJP site) and her friend Rachael.......

Zubot & Dawson (and a stand-up bass player and percussionist - and I do mean percussionist...more later on that) opened and played a 45-minute set. Zubot plays violin and mandolin, Dawson plays lap-slide, though technically it's called a weissenhorn. They sound like a quasi-blue-grass-jazz-band. At times the music flows, at times it enters a short (Thankfully!) Grateful Dead "Space-Jam" area, with a hint of Zappaesque instumental humor. Dawson uses banjo-finger-picks. Zubot occasionally taps the violin strings with his bow, and more often plucks the strings to add a nice counterpoint to the slide notes. the bass player also uses a bow at times, so now and then you'll hear a nice sound of three string instruments played somewhat unconventionally. (I mean, a stand-up bass in a Country Westernish tune?) and the percussionist pulled out more gizmos, gadgets, and whatchamacallits that he resembled a sex-toy salesman plying his wares....and I mean that in a nice-n-naughty way....

Zubot & Dawson
Jesse Zubot - violin and mandolin
Steve Dawson - weissenhorn
Keith Lowe - stand-up bass
Eliott Polsky - percussion

Disc One
1. Ed's Wake
2. Shame About It
3. Hoedown
4. Paloma
5. The King of America
6. The Elf Hunter
7. Elegance

After a 15 minute break, Kelly came out and played 4 songs solo on his
acoustic (he did not play lap-slide once all night)

8. River Rat Jimmy (surely surely!)
9. Katy (have I EVER heard a more brilliant, virtuoso performance of this? NEVER!)
10. Capman Boatman (just in case you missed one of the 600 notes in Katy - he finds them all again and then some in this one)
11. Not So Far To Go (does this "work" better played solo or with a band. the jury is out. My vote is solo. There's an intimacy/lonliness that is hampered (IMHO) by the presence of strings on the SP disc)

Then Kelly invited Zubot & Dawson back to join him, and they played entirely (until the 2nd encore) songs from Slingshot Professional: Disc Two:
1. Jericho
2. Window Grin
3. Knock Louder
4. Circle Wars
5. It's James Now
6. Cardboard Box of Batteries
7. Slingshot Professionals
1st encore (solo)
8. Lass of Loch Royale
2nd encore (with band)
9. Tommy

What can I say about the show? Kelly looked and played with a relaxed, happy, fun attitude throughout the night. When Z&D played their opening set, an empty chair sat center stage. When KJP filled that seat, the show took on the air of a fine musician sitting in his garage/living room/basement with some good buddys playing some under-rehearsed and therefore lively, happy, and GOOD. Some very nice interplay between Kelly and all the musicians - the long back-and-forth between the Kelly and the bass player before one tune was sublime.

All in all - Kelly was clearly at the forefront of this new sound - and it does come across much better live than on the record - though as others have said - the record grows on you. At times the grins exchanged between musicians as they reached new levels of improvisation was infectious - I watched from the front of the balcony and was very, very glad to be a part of this time in Kelly's career - it's a unique experience to see him blend seamlessly with other musicians and yet maintain that style and quality that is all his own.

Joe Penczak


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