On December 13, 2011, Keller Williams delivers Bass, his 17th album. Starting with 1994’s Freek, Keller has done solo albums, live albums, one with The String Cheese Incident, another with Bob Weir, Michael Franti, Bela Fleck and a bunch of other personal heroes, a bluegrass covers album with Keller & The Keels, a children’s album, a remix album, and more. Here Keller shows off, you guessed it, his bass skills with his first record that finds the multi-instrumentalist only on bass guitar.
Bass is also the first album to be recorded with Keller’s live reggae-funk band Kdubalicious. Formed in late 2010, in addition to Keller on bass and vocals, the group features Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums. Though Keller’s music, both what he listens to and what he puts out, may always be changing and evolving, there’s always one constant: his unique, playful songwriting. Bass is no different in that regard. This may be reggae music - with heavy doses of dub, funk, jazz and even bits of pop and psychedelia - but at the core, it’s a Keller Williams record, his warm voice and equally inviting attitude driving the positive vibrations.
Most artists would bristle at the term self-indulgent, but Keller Williams often invokes it in describing his own approach to music. To Williams, being self-indulgent means creating music that satisfies him—if he likes what he’s produced, he figures, then his audience is more likely to embrace it too. If he’s not happy with it, why would they be?
And so, when Williams describes his first-ever all-covers collection, the amusingly titled Thief, as “self-indulgent, like all of my albums,” that signifies not an inwardly pointed diss but a thumbs-up from one of the most tireless musical seekers around. Recorded with the Keels—husband and wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel—Thief is a sequel to the trio’s 2006 collaboration Grass, and to those of us on the receiving end, there’s nothing self-indulgent about it. If anything, it’s about as accessible and welcoming a record as Keller’s ever made.