Dean Phelps
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Dean Phelps

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | SELF

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


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"Minister Sings About Faith, Love and a Dog Named Jesus"

INDIANAPOLIS (7/28/08) — A voice from the past led Dean Phelps to record his third CD, “Give Us a Song.”

Last summer, Phelps, a regional staff member with the Christian Church in Indiana, received an email from a woman asking if he was the guy who used to sit and play guitar in a courtyard at the University of Kentucky years ago.

He was. Turns out Phelps had recorded a few songs for the woman and her roommate when the three of them were UK students in the 1970s. She still had the tape, and she sent it to him.

For Phelps, hearing that old cassette brought back a flood of memories. “It’s really an interesting experience to see 50 coming over the hill at a gallop, and to hear yourself when you’re 19,” he says.

It also motivated him to return to the studio two years after releasing “This Old House,” his second CD. “Give Us a Song” includes updated versions of two numbers from his 1970s dorm room recording session, including the title track by singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards.

The CD features folk tunes such as John Prine’s “The Hobo Song” and Kate Wolf’s “Across the Great Divide,” and updates of the traditional hymns “Marching to Zion” and “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.”

“Give Us a Song” also includes “My Dog Jesus,” a song Phelps performed live, but had never recorded on a CD until recently. “My Dog Jesus” was written by C.J. Watson, a friend of Phelps’ who lives in Nashville.

“It’s the most lyrically clever thing I’ve heard in a long time,” Phelps says.

When he heard Watson sing it, he asked for permission to add it to his own repertoire.

Once Phelps started performing it, people would come up after the show and ask which CD had the song about the dog on it, he says.

“I had to do this CD so I could quit having to say ‘I haven’t recorded it yet,’” Phelps confesses.

Phelps considers himself mostly a “refinisher of old songs” who occasionally writes his own.

His cousin’s struggles with her 19-year-old daughter inspired him to pen “If You Come Up Empty,” one of the CD’s standout tracks.

“As song developed it took on kind of a prodigal quality,” he says, referring to Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The mother in the song reminds her daughter that no matter what, she’s always welcome at the table.

Phelps love of folk, gospel, and Americana music dates back to his childhood in Maysville, Ky. He started playing guitar at age 9. His father was a skilled carpenter and an engineer but also a self-taught musician. “If it had frets, he could play it,” Phelps says.

At the University of Kentucky, he majored in music and directed church choirs during and after seminary at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. He released his first CD, “Going Over Home,” in 1997 — a collection of favorite hymns and gospel music. His second CD, “This Old House,” was “a broad exploration” that included rhythm-and-blues and rock influences.

“Give Us a Song” is more of a return to his roots. “I wanted it to sound like music you’d hear in the living room, or on somebody’s front porch,” he says.

In between his day job as director of church multiplication for the Indiana region, Phelps plays the occasional coffeehouse or church gig. So far most of those have been in central Indiana, but he hopes to venture further out with his new collection of songs.

Before he joined Indiana’s regional staff in 2005, Phelps served as the first called minister of Cherry Log Christian Church, in Cherry Log, Ga. The church was founded a few years ago by Disciples preacher Fred Craddock, known for weaving storytelling into his sermons. Phelps met Craddock while studying at Candler School of Theology.

Looking back, Phelps wonders if his love of music would be as strong if he had tried to make a career of it.

“It’s really a respite for me,” he says.

- Rebecca Woods Bowman,

"Pure Music, Unfiltered and Uncolored"

"One of the most rewarding aspects of my 30+ year career in radio is to expose deserving music to a listening audience and that joy is doubled when that music comes from an artist who has long been a best friend of mine." K. B. Travis - 2008

"Give Us A Song" CD is a work of pure music, unfiltered and uncolored. My congratulations to you and those who were involved in the performances and production and it is with great pride that I write to tell you that I have added the tracks Precious Memories, Leaning and Marching to Zion to our Sunday Morning Gospel rotation.

"Give Us A Song" is a natural and welcome progression to your first 2 works: "Going Over Home" and "This Old House" and I am honored to include it not only in the station's professional but my personal collection as well.

Congratulations on your recent national exposure via gospel world publications. Like me, one by one, the music world is becoming a "Phelps Phan".
- K.B. Travis, WDDK-FM/Dock 103.9

"An Inviting Voice with Crisp, Clean Guitar"

Give Us a Song is the third full-length release from musician Dean Phelps, his first two were, Going Over Home (1997) and This Old House (2006).

What attracted me to Phelps music was when I heard the song, “My Dog Jesus”- (track-6). The song was written by Nashville songwriter C. J. Watson with Kurt Fortmeyer along with Al DeTrolio and while having a humorous side to it also offers up profound lyrics that will have any dog lover nodding along to it, like a bobble head doll in total agreement.

On this release Phelps does a lot of cover songs putting his own musical spin on them. He covers songs like Paul Simon’s, “Feelin’ Groovy”, Fats Waller’s, “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “, John Prine’s, “The Hobo Song,” and Bob Dylan’s “Oh Sister,” along with several others.

You’ll also find original music on this release. Without a doubt the most touching one is, “If You Come Up Empty”, a song that deals with the time that every parent dreads when their child grows up to the point where they think they know it all, and as a parent you try to let them learn from the mistakes they make while letting them know that you’ll always be there for them when they need you.

This song is such a parallel of our walk with Christ and how sometimes we think we know what’s best for us and try to do things are own way and how Christ is always there waiting for us with His hand outreached when we decide to hold it again.

Dean Phelps has an inviting voice that draws you into his music and his guitar playing is crisp, clean, and drives the songs where they need to go.

I really liked the good vibe that this release puts out and recommend you give it a listen. Give Us a Song is worth getting just for the song, “My Dog Jesus,” everything else is gravy.
- C.W. Ross, Christian Rockers Online

"5 out of 5 Stars!"

An amazing sounding album which combines great harmonies with fantastic songs that at times are played with just an acoustic guitar; all of which is to Phelps advantage and certainly a joy to hear.

(March 2009) issue - Russell Hill, Maverick Magazine


Give Us a Song (2008)
This Old House (2006)
Going Over Home (1997)



Phelps' love of folk, gospel, and Americana music dates back to his childhood in Maysville, Ky. He started playing guitar at age 9. His father was a skilled carpenter and an engineer but also a self-taught musician. “If it had frets, he could play it,” Phelps says.

From that time when he first picked up a guitar and learned the shape of a G-chord, Dean Phelps has made music to bring enjoyment to anyone willing to listen. His folk style, positive demeanor and family-friendly repertoire make his music appropriate in a variety of venues, including churches, coffee shops and restaurants.

Influenced by a number of singer songwriters like John Prine, John Denver, Nanci Griffith and Kate Wolf, his music is an acoustic blend of folk, gospel and Americana. Dean sings songs that are both religious and secular and has made several original arrangements of traditional hymns and songs of the Christian faith.

The songs he sings tell stories about people, life and faith, and Phelps hopes that his music helps people see the sacred in everyday life. Although his repertoire is not composed exclusively of gospel music, Dean’s faith runs through each song.

At the University of Kentucky, he majored in music and directed church choirs before and during his time as a seminary student at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. Following seminary, Dean was ordained to Christian ministry in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Doc Possom of Indy Folk News writes: "Dean is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He is Reverend Dean Phelps, with no apologies, but although he's a Reverend, he's not very churchy. He is a regular guy with a fun repertoire, a relaxed manner, nice picking, and a friendly way of putting a song across!"