In The Spotlight

Keller Williams Brings Funky to Fayetteville

Posted by tbaker |

By Mason Carr

The loopy and funkadelic grooves of the one-pretty-damn-talented-man jam band, Keller Williams, will be shaking the hineys of Fayetteville’s freaky Nov. 29 at George’s Majestic Lounge on Dickson Street.

Williams has had a kaleidoscopic touring year, from playing with Larry Keel, gruff-voiced guitar guru and Americana eccentric, and Keel’s wife, Jenny, to the bluegrass gentlemen in suits, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, backing band of the iconic Del McCoury Band.

He has also been playing shows with Kdubalicious, a dub reggae funk project with Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D. on drums, sometimes accompanied by the Keels, as well as his unique solo shows.

His solo show in Fayetteville will be before a New Year’s Eve run up the East Coast with a new R&B project, Keller Williams with More Than a Little, and a skip out west to Colorado to celebrate the end of the world Dec. 21.

His Sound

Often lyrically silly with a driven carefree musical style, Williams is an entertainer first. That’s why he’s so much fun to watch. He absorbs a large swath of musical influences as he builds and improvises his good-timer tunes into groovy and colorful boogies, looping instruments as he dances between guitars and basses, whistling and beat-boxing along the way — the end effect being the sound of a big, weird, bona fide jam band with one man onstage.

Williams’ music career started in 1994 with his self-released debut, “Freek.” Two years later, he released “Buzz,” and in 1998 he signed to String Cheese Incident’s SCI Fidelity to release “Spun.”

Since then the prolific Williams has released an album nearly every year, the most recent being “Pick,” with the help of the Travelin’ McCoury’s.

His Newest Album

“Pick” is an exceptional meeting ground between the structured sophisticate’s bluegrass of yesteryear and emerging tempo-driven, pick-to-please jammers of today. The McCoury’s keep Williams grounded while Williams provides the weirdo-spark to make the McCoury’s more relevant to younger audiences.

The McCoury’s put their treatment on old Williams’ favorites “Mullet Cut” and “I am Elvis,” making “Mullet Cut” the best version yet, while new originals by Williams such as “Something Else” bring out the best in the pairing of sounds.

Covers on the album are eclectic, surprising yet the album’s biggest disappointments. My Morning Jacket’s “I’m Amazed” falls flat and Jesse J’s “Price Tag” is yet another reminder that the trend of taking popular music and adapting it to bluegrass rarely works well. The quirky John Hartford’s “Sexual Harassment” is so polished and boring, even with its tacky voice-overs, the song will lullaby listeners to sleep before it gets laughter and hang-on-every-word attention Hartford’s original did.

The last track on the album, though, reiterates why the album is so great. It’s a funny and self-evident traditional bluegrass tune Williams wrote about his appreciation for bluegrass acts past and present, and features Del himself. It is a nod to the funny situation seen across bluegrass festivals in America as bluegrass music finds its identity to newer generations — the meeting of dread-locked hippies sleeping in tents to see new bluegrass bands such as Yonder Mountain String Band and the geriatrics in RVs there to see old favorites such as the McCourys.

“It’s hard to mow my lawn when my grass is blue,” the chorus goes. “Sometimes it gets all dirty like when a hippie don’t use shampoo. Sometimes it dreads in a dreadlock, but the rain can make it new.”

The show will be at 9:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at George’s Majestic Lounge. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 at the door, and the show is for age 18 and older.

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