Twelve albums is a lot in this day and age, but Keller Williams has persevered by constantly evolving as a musician. Over the course of his career, he’s morphed into a solo artist leading a band of electronic loops, the master of a thousand musical toys. He’s recorded a disc as frontman for String Cheese Incident, been in a bluegrass trio, and in 2007 he released Dreams, a masterpiece that saw him as a sort of bandleader, constanting adapting to a rotating cast of supporting players. No matter the situation, he’s consistently put out a great product, and 12, a career retrospective, is the result.
12 is the appropriate title here – it’s Keller’s 12-year "anniversary," the twelfth album he’s released, and there are 12 songs on the disc: 11 from each of the previous releases, and a new track. From classic Keller tracks that have stood the test of time like "Freeker by the Speaker" to new ones like Dream‘s "People Watchin’" where he was backed by Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, and Jeff Sipe, you’re able to see all facets of the career of a very unconventional musician. "Breathe," the title track of Williams’ disc fronting String Cheese Incident, is a marvelous piece of work, as is "Local," recorded with Larry and Jenny Keel on 2006’s Grass.
Keller has his share of critics, there are certainly plenty who feel that his one-man-band act is a schtick. However, this disc should appeal to everyone because it shows his versatility as a musician. There are certainly the solo tracks here, but there are just as many that display his knack for fitting into any sort of music dynamic. It’s this flexibility that makes him great; it’s why he’s still producing music that becomes ingrained in your brain after only a few listens. Here’s to hoping for 12 more years.
12 will be released December 18 on SCI Fidelity Records.