Already familiar to their devoted fan base in Oklahoma City, Shelly Phelps and the Scarlet Street Players present a powerhouse performance that is both laced with nostalgic influences across the American songbook and a fresh, original elements of performance and song-craft that stem from the unique character of the lady and her band. The cocktail of these forces is potent: the band's live... more
Already familiar to their devoted fan base in Oklahoma City, Shelly Phelps and the Scarlet Street Players present a powerhouse performance that is both laced with nostalgic influences across the American songbook and a fresh, original elements of performance and song-craft that stem from the unique character of the lady and her band. The cocktail of these forces is potent: the band's live show is like a thunderstorm rolling through the venue, the simultaneous beauty and primal strength of the entity are threatening, but impossible for an observer to tear away from.
Anchored by frontwoman, vocalist and songwriter Shelly Phelps, the band weaves seamlessly through a catalog of songs that dance across the genre lines of rhythm and blues, soul-jazz and rock. Phelps and her band have formed an airtight live unit since their conception in 2013. This follows Shelly's 2004 album “Girl on a Wire”, which quickly became a fan favorite and featured “Throbbin” Rob Vollmar on guitar. Vollmar's association with Phelps continues to this day, as he carries lead guitar duties for the Scarlet Street Players. With the rhythm section combo of Dave Cochran on bass guitar and Zev Stein on drums, the Players are a band of true and experienced pros. The groove is eternally present, whether it's a frenetic and high energy roadhouse blues or a laid back trip through jazzland, Cochran and Stein carry the songs with equal parts grit and grace, and Vollmar's guitar can switch from light applications of color to crackling white hot lightning before you realize it. And let's not forget the lady at the helm, because Phelps' voice is a force of nature all its own. Powerful and commanding attention, she moves from croon to wail at will, rolling notes over the jagged or smooth emotional terrain that the songs pass over.
As well as their sonic identity, the band is visually striking in attire and performance, with an image that is consistent with the period influences of their work and a level of theatricality not found in just any old blues band. It comes as no surprise after seeing Shelly Phelps onstage, where she moves to the music with a subtle aura of confidence and power, somewhere in the crosshairs between dance and performance art, that Phelps is an experienced actress. It is not uncommon to spot Phelps credited in a local theater production, where she has notably played legendary singing icon Patsy Cline in “Always... Patsy Cline”, and recently performed as eight different characters in the two woman play “Parallel Lives”. Part of Phelps' artistic genius is her ability to blur what many would think of as separate talents. Beyond the presence of her theater skills in her music performance, Shelly's understanding of narrative, character, perspective and motive transitions
easily from theater work to songwriting.
Phelps may have been eight different characters in “Parallel Lives”, but that's mild compared to the full cast she presents on the band's newest record “Beautiful and Burdened”. “We travel through some mysterious and haunting territory”, says Phelps, “Exotic worlds of film noir, femme fatales, and magic while addressing real-world themes of enlightenment, secrets, redemption, darkness, and truth.” Releasing in fall of 2015, the new album showcases the now two year old band and Phelps taking the listener across eleven songs that navigate a dark and magical landscape that lies somewhere between the tone and geography of a black and white noir thriller, a fantasy novel, and a wealth of historical locales. Verses become scenes, songs become character arcs, and this album becomes its own alternate reality filled to the brim with cinematic visions of characters facing the crossroads between virtue and sin. A Voodoo Priestess in New Orleans, an old house offering residence to dark people (and even darker secrets), magical spells of pure and toxic intent, and of course a femme fatale or two... these are the the people and places that populate the world in “Beautiful and Burdened”.
Vollmar, the ace guitarist who was a co-writer on “Beautiful and Burdened”, felt the magic during the making of this record, saying “I’ve never worked harder (or had more fun) than I
did recording this album with this batch of musicians and that comes through for me as a listener when I hear it now. Craft and exuberant diligence placed at the service of a great song equals magic.". This record is not to be missed, and is certain to catapult the band to new heights. Featuring eleven songs, including “Scarlet Street”, the band's namesake, this album was not only the fruition of the creative powers of Phelps and her band, but also the support of their existing audience. “Beautiful and Burdened” was backed by a highly successful crowdfunding campaign, where Shelly and the Player's crowd showed up in full force to help bring the project to life. “It’s been a long wait”, says Phelps, “but it was the support and generosity of our fans that kept us moving forward and determined to craft a fully-realized collection of songs”
Co-produced by the renowned Trent Bell at Bell Labs, “Beautiful and Burdened” is a tour de force of artistry on all fronts.less