Keller Williams : Bass

Written by Tim Hurley

December 23, 2011

Multi-faceted artist Keller Williams releases his 17th album this month, and 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). Williams may be primarily known as a guitar player, but he proves here that he is no slouch on the bass either.

His playful songwriting method and signature vocals are not much different from his previous 16 releases; however this project leans more toward jazz and reggae versus the roots, bluegrass, and jam of most his other albums, and it benefits greatly by having accompanying musicians rather than his usual one-man-band projects.  Although this is 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 folks have been hesitant about getting into Keller’s music, Bass may just win them over with its accessibility and effortless flow. 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 is strong as usual, displayed on the catchy funk 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 the 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 humorous lyrics and positive vibes, some of the best moments on this album happen when the trio shakes free from the anchor and jam, seemingly swimming together through relaxing chords shown on such songs as the soft reggae tune “High” and the jazz-fusion track “Buena”.

This album may not represent Keller’s strongest work (look to 2007′s Dream for that), but there is a certain wonderful chillness to it all. And you have to appreciate Keller’s choice to continuously try new projects with varying styles and players. His first 10 or so studio recordings were just him and looping machines, which were becoming a bit redundant and tiresome. Over the course of his last five albums he has gone in a different direction each time, which is welcome. He 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.