Keller Williams | Odd Man Out

kw.jpgSeeing Williams live, it’s amazing how big a sound just one man can produce.

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Quintessential one-man-band Keller Williams makes his way back to The Pageant this Saturday night, touring in support of his latest self-released solo effort, Odd. After his 2007 collaboration album, Dream, on which he teamed up with an array of heavy-hitting musicians including Bob Weir, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Michael Franti and Charlie Hunter among others, and his most recent double-live CD with Keith Mosley, Gibb Droll and Jeff Sipe, Williams is back to doing what he does best – just being himself.

Odd is classic Keller all the way – a pure example of his storytelling and imaginative style; and always with his keen sense of humor. The quirky piano song "A Day at the Office" provides a glimpse into the daily monotony of being a working musician – air travel, renting mini-vans, being skewered by the press (he makes a stab at Blender magazine, which apparently stated that the only good thing about him is that there’s only one).

Then there’s the highly entertaining "Doobie in My Pocket" in which he recants a very convincing story about standing in line to board a flight and realizing he’s packed a doobie in his shirt pocket, then panicking and having visions of Guantanamo Bay. "That one kind of wrote itself," he tells me in a phone interview from the road.  

Although some of the songs have been road-tested for some time, they haven’t ever found a home on an album. One of the more serious songs on the album is "Song for Fela," a tribute to Fela Kuti, a celebrated Nigerian mulit-instrumentalist and afrobeat composer as well as a political and human rights activist. Williams discovered Kuti’s music through his management company and was instantly taken with it.

"There’s a lot of political story behind Fela Kuti and that only proves his strength and his anger that comes through the music," Williams says. "But what I’m more attracted to is just the overall groove and the droning funk that he has and every now and then there will be this five-horn horn line that comes in and just knocks you off your feet. It’s just really amazing the control he had over his band and how tight his band was and how big they were."

Seeing Williams live, it’s amazing how big a sound just one man can produce, with a little help from an Echoplex Digital Pro looping unit, which allows him to alternate between several instruments on stage, literally accompanying himself. Williams is truly a poet and a musician for the modern age.

When touring, he says, "I spend way too much time on set lists. I come from the school of two sets per show and I’m constantly trying to do different shows every night, plus every time I come back to a specific venue, trying not to repeat songs. I will study the set list I played last year at The Pageant and make sure I don’t do any of those songs, or just one or two, but definitely not open or close with the same songs."

He’s also known to play some unexpected cover songs from Ozzy Osbourne to Nirvana to Heart. "The covers just kind of take me over," he admits. "I’ll just be in the car and something will come on and I’ll know every single word. Then it’s fun to change it around. I put myself in the place of the audience member, trying to bring people in to my world and capture their attention by way of familiar songs presented in a different way."

Williams has built a dedicated fan base with constant touring, but as a husband and father of two, he tries to spend as much time as possible with his family. "There’s very few times I’m away from my family very long. We have a 12 or 13 day limit," he says. "I’m lucky to be able to take them with me a lot of the time. And this year, I’m gong to be doing things a little differently. Instead of doing long tours, I’m going to focus on only being gone on the weekends. I’m very fortunate to have the balance of the family life and the rock and roll life."

Williams can also be heard on approximately 50 college, independent and community radio stations around the country on his syndicated radio show, Keller’s Cellar. He started the show, he says, "as a way to document the stuff I was listening to at the time and kind of put together hour-long, narrated mix tapes just to stream on my web site for fun."   

"It’s a very expensive hobby," he says. "It’s totally free to the radio stations and over the course of 142 episodes I’ve probably had about 100 of those had a sponsor and the rest I paid for myself."  

 

Catch Williams in the flesh on Saturday night, January 30 at The Pageant, presented by 88.1 KDHX. | Amy Burger

Keller Williams live at The Pageant
Saturday, January 30th
8:00 PM (Doors @ 7:00 PM)
The Pageant
Tickets: $22.50 at The Pageant box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and on ticketmaster.com. / All Ages Welcome
 

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