Keller Williams | Dream (Sci Fidelity)

cd_kellerThe opening song, "Play This," is a real departure from Williams' generally laid-back, "jammy" sound, with a punk-inspired, hard guitar opening and funky, Flea-like bass riffs throughout.

 

 

 

 

 

The first time I saw or heard Keller Williams was back in 2000, on a snowy December night in Chicago, where he opened for Dark Star Orchestra at the Vic Theater. Here's this scruffy guy who comes out onstage all by himself with a guitar, covers a bunch of Grateful Dead songs, and really gets the 1,200 person crowd going. I'll admit that, at the time, I didn't necessarily fall in love with his voice or his act, but I appreciated his ability to entertain a sell-out crowd as a one-man show. I thought, "This guy has balls!"

Over the years, Williams has honed his skills, surrounding himself with instruments and pedals and adding depth to his live act with innovative looping and delay techniques. He's grown a dedicated fan base of his own through his unique sound and nonstop, grassroots touring.

Nine studio albums and hundreds of live shows later, Keller Williams is truly living his dream. For his newly released, aptly titled album Dream, Williams collaborated with a long and impressive list of highly accomplished musicians—including Béla Fleck, Victor Wooten, Bob Weir, Charlie Hunter, John Molo, John Scofield, Martin Sexton, Michael Franti, and Steve Kimock—to create 16 unique tracks with a richer, fuller sound than any of his previous recordings.

The inspiration for Dream was a long and ambitious "wish list" Williams had scratched out of artists he's always wanted to record with in the studio. "It was a totally unrealistic vision," he says. "The idea was that all we could do was ask, and the worst they could do was say ‘No.'" Luckily for Williams and his fans, most of them didn't say "No." The result is his proudest accomplishment to date.

With such a diverse mix of musicians on the album, each song each has a truly unique sound, with Williams' signature warm voice and acoustic guitar as the common thread.

The opening song, "Play This," is a real departure from Williams' generally laid-back, "jammy" sound, with a punk-inspired, hard guitar opening and funky, Flea-like bass riffs throughout. He harmonizes with the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir on "Cadillac," a more traditional, acoustic folk song. "Ninja of Love," a jazzy reggae jam featuring Spearhead front man Michael Franti on vocals, is one of the album's strongest and most memorable tracks. "People Watching" features the unmistakable banjo picking of Grammy winner Béla Fleck, along with the Flecktones' Victor Lamont Wooten on bass.

Because a handful of Williams' collaborators were six-string guitarists, many of the tracks find him moving his own guitar responsibilities to the background, sometimes even picking up the bass instead. "When you bring in guitar players like Kimock, Hunter, Scofield, and Fareed Haque, it doesn't make sense to compete with them," he says.

Although the songs may seem somewhat disjointed, the overall work is worth a close listening to if only to appreciate the fine musicianship and collaboration. And if you don't dig it, he really doesn't care. "To be honest, I wasn't really thinking about public opinion for this record," Williams admits. "It is all for me. Mostly I just wanted to be able to crank these songs up in my pimped-out golf cart when I'm 80."

And after all, who can resist the sweet sound of a man finally realizing his dream? A | Amy Burger

RIYL: Martin Sexton, Jack Johnson, Bela Fleck

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply