Wanted: White male, squirrelly hair, known to make strange mouth noises, last seen with the bluegrass Bonnie and Clyde. He is known to make even the whitest man dance; approach at your own will.
In his first-ever all-covers collection, Thief, the one-man-band Keller Williams steals from the rich and the poor of the alt-rock, roots, and country worlds with his partners in crime, the Keels – husband and wife duo Larry (guitar) and Jenny (bass). It is this honky-tonk band that seems to bring the southern stall to the out-of-control wagon wheel of Williams.
The one downhill tune that seems to run out of control is Amy Winehouse’s "Rehab." Yet the tempo takes a loud exhale with one of my favorite tunes on the album, "Uncle Disney" (Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers). Diehard Keller fans won’t be surprised to see a Grateful Dead tune find its way into the arms of the Thief (a very beautiful version of "Mountains on the Moon").
I laugh at the vision of Keller teaching the Keels songs by a group called the Butthole Surfers ("Pepper") and songs about "Sex and Candy" (Marcy’s Playground). Yet it is the bookend covers of Kris Kristofferson on the disc that makes Thief truly worth picking up. "Don’t Cuss the Fiddle" opens the album and "The Year 2003 Minus 25" closes it, making us both laugh and think.
Thief is now available on SCI Fidelity Records.