‘Laugh’ a little with Keller Williams
Eclectic, interesting and unique are words used to define great music, yet they are rarely found as adjectives describing the slop played on mainstream radio. So, when Keller Williams, who plays 8150, Friday, Sept. 13, performed at Boulder’s Fox Theater in front of radio people from across the nation at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Reporter convention, he proved inventive music still has a chance for mainstream radio success.Following the show, the Mountain in Seattle, WXRT in Chicago and WFPK in Louisville all added at least one of Williams’ eclectic tracks from his latest disc, Laugh, to their programming.”He always says he makes music to entertain himself,” says Carrie Lombardo of Madison House Publicity, “but this time he ended up making a disc that appeals to a wide range of audiences. I mean, who doesn’t want to have a little fun when they listen to the radio?”Williams has always had the unexplainable need to make listeners grin, smile, and laugh.With his sixth CD release, he continues to exhibit his playful spirit without diminishing his musical genius and technical expertise. Offering 15 dynamic songs, Laugh, is an inspired album by one of today’s most gifted and understated musicians.Titled in the one-word tradition of each of his recordings, Laugh seamlessly displays the catchy hooks and unpeggable variety so characteristic of Keller’s music. For Laugh, these diverse elements are broadened and blended into a more integrated and accessible form. While still whimsical as ever, Williams has mastered a profound sense of delicacy and timing: skills that greatly contribute a depth and momentum not found on his previous recordings.Keller, who first began performing in his hometown of Fredericksburg, Va., at the early age of 16, remembers yearning for a guitar as soon as he could say the word. Three decades later, critics place the virtually self-taught musician " in the lineage of dazzling, yet quirky guitarists that includes John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and the late Michael Hedges." (Chicago Tribune). Dazzling indeed.Everything that Keller picks up comes alive. Perhaps his many years touring as a solo act have allowed him to shamelessly indulge his rhythmic instinct.Very few solo musicians have mastered such a multi-dimensional sound and captivating live show as Keller: critics have dubbed him a one-man band.His awe-inspiring performance attracts sold-out crowds across the country.Keller admits that he plays as much for himself as for his audience."Keeping myself happy is the first priority,” he says. “That’s just the way it is." Such "self-entertainment" has led to the use of many non-traditional instruments, including his exploration of live loop technology and hissignature mouth flugel.While Keller is armed with an arsenal of various instruments on stage, he counts on his eight (yes, eight) guitars for the bulk of his musical expression. Keller fondly lists off their names: "There’s the Blonde, theBrunette, the Platinum, Bari, the Bari Twelve, the Big White Electric, the Mexican Fender bass and the Zilla (an eight string bass/guitar in one)." He plays each with passion and virtuosity, never having to sacrifice his fingerwizardry when adding his sweet tenor vocals to the mix.Keller admits that his lyrics are unusual: usually lighthearted, inventive and conjuring images of a twisted reality."It baffles me where my lyrics come from. I suppose it’s a blend of my imagination and life experience," Keller says. "Everything needs an opposite. I totally understand why some artists’ music expresses anger and pain; there’s a lot of it in our world. In fact, if those musicians weren’t communicating that part of existence, I would feel less empowered to do what I do, which is promote the positive side."Catch the positive, innovative Williams sound and laugh a little at 10 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13 at 8150.