Keller Williams What the Funk Tour 2014 featuring Keller Williams with

Keller Williams

Most artists would bristle at the term self-indulgent, but Keller Williams
often invokes it in describing his own approach to music. To Williams, being
self-indulgent means creating music that satisfies him—if he likes what he’s
produced, he figures, then his audience is more likely to embrace it too. If
he’s not happy with it, why would they be?
And so, when Williams describes his first-ever all-covers collection, the
amusingly titled Thief, as “self-indulgent, like all of my albums,” that signifies
not an inwardly pointed diss but a thumbs-up from one of the most tireless
musical seekers around. Recorded with the Keels—husband and wife
duo Larry and Jenny Keel—Thief is a sequel to the
trio’s 2006 collaboration Grass, and to those of us
on the receiving end, there’s nothing self-indulgent
about it. If anything, it’s about as accessible and welcoming
a record as Keller’s ever made.
Granted, Thief does require a certain amount of blind
faith on the part of the listener: This is, after all, an
album that includes songs originally written and
recorded by as wildly diverse an assemblage as anyone’s
ever likely to dream up, from Amy Winehouse
(“Rehab”) to the Grateful Dead (“Mountains of the
Moon”), the Butthole Surfers (“Pepper”) to Kris
Kristofferson (“Don’t Cuss That Fiddle,” which opens
the album, and “The Year 2003 Minus 25,” which
closes it). The set is filled out with tunes by Ryan
Adams, the Presidents of the United States of America, the Raconteurs, Patterson
Hood, Danny Barnes, Cracker, the Yonder Mountain String Band and
Marcy Playground. All over the place, yup, but that’s the way Williams likes it.
And in his hands it all makes sense—like everything he’s ever touched, whether
from his own pen or someone else’s, it all becomes Keller Williams’ music.
“I’m a music lover first, a musician second and a songwriter third,” Williams
says, “so a covers record is a natural progression for me. I love writing songs and
I love performing my songs—almost all of them. But I go out and do about 120
shows a year, and I just can’t write enough to play new songs all the time. There
are always different cover songs to learn though; just flipping around on the
radio, next thing you know you’ve got a song stuck in your head. If you change
it around and play it completely differently, it sounds like a whole new song.”
Since he first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, Keller Williams has defined
the independent artist. Most of his career has been spent performing as a
one-man band—his stage shows are built around Keller singing his compositions
and choice covers while accompanying himself with an acoustic guitar
connected to a Gibson Echoplex delay system that allows him to simulate a full
band. That approach, Williams explains, was derived from “hours of playing
solo with just a guitar and a microphone, and then wanting to go down different
avenues musically. I couldn’t afford humans and didn’t want to step into the
cheesy world of automated sequencers where you hit a button and the whole
band starts to play, then you’ve got to solo along or sing on top of it. I wanted
something more organic yet with a dance groove that I could create myself.”
Williams’ solo live shows—and his ability to improvise to his determinedly
quirky tunes despite the absence of an actual band—quickly became the stuff
of legend, and his audience grew exponentially once word spread about this
exciting, unpredictable performer. Keller’s albums, meanwhile, beginning
with 1994’s Freek, were embraced by a wide community of music fans. Unlike
his live gigs, Williams has nearly always invited fellow musicians to
contribute to his albums, and an alliance with The String Cheese Incident
led not only to Williams signing with the band’s label SCI Fidelity, but a
collaborative effort on 1999’s Breathe album.
Among his other albums—Thief is his 15th—Williams singles out 2003’s Dance,
consisting of remixes from the earlier Laugh record, as a personal favorite. He’s
also fond of his twelfth album, appropriately titled 12, the 2007 compilation for
which he chose one track from each of his preceding 11 albums. “That’s kind of
interesting to hear my history one song at a time,” Williams says.
That history begins in Virginia, where Keller was born 40 years ago, and
where he lives today. Growing up just south of Washington, D.C., he remembers
being exposed to a wide variety of music at an early age, starting
with country and bluegrass and working his way up through hip-hop and gogo,
a brand of funk particular to that part of the country. Once he began playing
guitar, Williams’ sphere expanded to what he calls “the
post-pseudo-skateboarder punk-rock rebellious type of thing, Black Flag and
Sex Pistols and Ramones, Dead Kennedys, things like that. That slid into
the more melodic college rock, like the Cure and the Cult, the Smiths,
R.E.M.’s first five or six records.”
His introduction to the music of the Grateful Dead would become a gamechanger
for Keller. “I studied and learned their music
and went to the shows,” he says, adding that the impact
of Jerry Garcia on his attitude toward music remains
incalculable. Another major influence was
Michael Hedges, the late virtuoso acoustic guitarist.
“He was really excelling in a whole different world
from what I knew,” says Williams. “What an amazing
force Michael Hedges was as a solo artist.”
After moving to Colorado for a few years, further
exposure to bluegrass music and progressive
acoustic artists such as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
also had a major impression on Williams. As
he began to develop his own distinctive compositional
and performing style, Williams incorporated
all of the lessons he’d learned from the long list of
artists who’d found their way into his world, then filtered their music through
his own experiences until something wholly unique emerged.
Today he is still exploring and expanding—although Thief (each of Williams’
albums bears a single-word title) stays close to traditional bluegrass, eccentric
song choices aside, Keller says that his most recent music incorporates
elements drawn from electronica and DJ culture. Whatever direction he goes
in musically, however, Williams is likely to continue to surprise lyrically.
Known for writing about subject matter most simply described as unusual,
Keller has no intention of going conventional any time soon. “In the history
of music,” he says, “there are trillions of love songs and there are so many
political songs. I try to find subject matter that’s not been written about or
maybe hasn’t been written about that much.”
Keller’s thirst for music of all kinds has also led him to the world of radio.
For the past seven years he has hosted Keller’s Cellar, a weekly syndicated
program available on both terrestrial stations and online at www.kellerwilliams.
net. Williams describes the show as “a self-indulgent (there’s that
word again), hour-long narrated mix tape of stuff I’m into. It’s rule-less except
for what the FCC says we can’t do. I don’t play contemporary country
music. I don’t play contemporary Christian music—however, there is possibly
some old gospel. I don’t play opera. Everything else is fair game. World
music from all around—African music from all the countries, jazz, funk,
reggae, techno, chill, lounge, lounge singers, rub-a-dub, dancehall. I pretty
much stay away from smooth jazz. It’s definitely a fun outlet for me.”
And more recently, to satisfy his bottomless music jones, Williams has also
launched “Once a Week Freek” (www.theonceaweekfreek.com), an online
repository of unreleased studio and live tracks, nuggets from his archives,
etc. “It’s a series that’s been going on almost a year. It’s me releasing one
song a week for download. I started it with the Odd record,” he says, referring
to his 2009 album release. “I’m trying to do something different.”
And it’s that last sentence that, in a sense, best sums up what Keller Williams
has always been about—something different. Call him “self-indulgent,” call
him “odd” or even a “thief” if you like (those record titles don’t come out of
nowhere, you know). Just don’t even think of calling him predictable. Wherever
else Keller Williams may go from here, you can be sure that he will
never title one of his albums Repeat or Bore or Snooze. Anything else, your
guess is as good as his.

More Than A Little

he band is called More Than A Little. A super funky, fearless 6 piece. Bass, drums, keys, guitar and 2 mesmerizing female singers will be harmonizing over his original songs as well as some choice covers.

$20.00 - $23.00

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Keller Williams What the Funk Tour 2014 featuring Keller Williams with with More Than A Little

Sunday, January 19 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Cabooze