March 21, 2013 by Benji
Keller Williams, the guitarist commonly know as the mad scientist of music for his unique concerts where he creates the feel of an entire trance funk band playing, while its actually just him playing each instrument, recording and looping the sounds. To the delight of his fanbase, he just released Keys, an album made of entirely of Grateful Dead songs featuring Keller on Grand Piano. Anyone who knows Keller’s repertoire knows that he is a big fan of The Dead. Whether it’s his versions of their songs, or tributes to them found in songs such as “Gate Crashers Suck”, an ode to their Deer Creek run in 1995, The Dead’s influence on Keller’s music is evident. But this album is special and different. It’s not full of the special affects or loops found in Keller’s other works. This is all him, in real time, just playing and singing. Perhaps the best way for me to review the album is to describe what took place as I first listened to it.
The setup: I just put nice new speakers in my office where I work with some other guys who also happen to love music. I pop in the album and the first track, He’s Gone, comes on. Approximately 15 seconds later, Todd, one of the other brokers in my office (who has been to over 70 Dead shows) walked by.
The Keller Williams affect: Todd immediately stopped, came into my office and asked me to “turn it up more”. He said “I don’t know who this is, but I know this song and I love it”. By the time the third track, Terrapin Station, came on, another broker came in, Matt who appreciates some jam bands, but prefers studio versions to live music, sat down and said “this is good, what is it?”
Both Matt and Todd pulled up their chairs and laptops and we worked in the office with the music playing. We got through the album three times that day and numerous times over the next week while listening to Keys. It was a great experience for me, listening to songs like Wharf Rat, Brokedown Palace and Row Jimmy in way I had never heard them, all while sitting with business associates who were enjoying the majestic sounds just as much as I was. It was powerful. The timeless ballads of The Grateful Dead and the impassioned playing of Keller is a combination that any music fan can appreciate.
It’s a bonus that this album was made by Keller as a benefit to the Rex Foundation, a non-profit started by members of the Grateful Dead to benefit organization they believe in, mostly focused on the further of music, art and science. All proceeds from Keys, go to Rex, for more info go to www.kellerwilliams.net .
Also as an aside, I think that Bob Weir should have Keller in his TRI studios for one of his Weir Here listening parties. But that is an entirely different story.