Multi-faceted artist Keller Williams releases his 17th album this month, andÂ it stays true to his one-name-album formula, this time with the appropriately titled Bass. Keller takes the reigns as primary vocalist and bass player, and is backed by his touring reggae-funk band Kdubalicious, consisting of Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums (fellow Virginians who have worked with Keller before as members of the reggae-tinged Transmitters).Â Williams may be primarily known as a guitar player, but he proves here that he is no slouch on the bass either.
His playful songwritingÂ method and signature vocalsÂ are not much different from his previous 16 releases; however thisÂ project leans more towardÂ jazz and reggae versus the roots, bluegrass, and jam ofÂ most hisÂ other albums, and it benefits greatly by having accompanyingÂ musicians ratherÂ thanÂ his usual one-man-band projects.Â AlthoughÂ this isÂ not his first foray into leading a band as he has done so before on previous installments such as Keller and the Keels, Keller Williams and the WMDs, The Keller Williams Incident, etc., it still marks a progression for his ever-changing craft.
If any folksÂ have beenÂ hesitantÂ about getting into Keller’s music, Bass may just win them over with its accessibility and effortless flow.Â The airy jazz grooves heard on the excellent “The Sun and The Moon’s Vagenda” – highlighted by Starling’s melodic piano and Mark D’s rhythmic drumming – as well as the upbeat, breezy reggae of “Positive” are smooth and extremely ear-pleasing.
His lyrical wit isÂ strong asÂ usual, displayed on the catchy funkÂ number “Hey Ho Jorge” (I like my funk well-done, never rare … I eat the funk), the pop-reggae tune “Super Hot” where he rants about the “hot chicks in the front row”, as well as theÂ hilarious “I Am Elvis” (I like to snowboard naked in the morning, jump out of a helicopter and freeze my behind).
But aside from all the humorousÂ lyrics andÂ positive vibes, some of the best moments on this album happen when the trioÂ shakes freeÂ from the anchorÂ and jam,Â seemingly swimming togetherÂ through relaxing chordsÂ shown on such songs asÂ theÂ soft reggae tune “High”Â and theÂ jazz-fusion trackÂ “Buena”.
This album may not represent Keller’s strongest work (lookÂ to 2007’sÂ Dream for that), but there is a certain wonderful chillness to it all. AndÂ you have to appreciate Keller’s choice to continuously try new projects withÂ varying styles and players. His first 10 or so studio recordings were just him and looping machines, which wereÂ becoming a bit redundant andÂ tiresome. Over the course of his last five albums he has gone in a different direction each time, which is welcome.Â HeÂ performs better as a band leader than a solo artist, this much is sure, and having the talents of Jay Starling and Mark D along for this ride works brilliantly.
Bass is out now on SCI Fidelity.