“I am a hungry man, and this funk is my meal.”
If you really are what you eat, then Keller Williams is one funky man. The byproduct of the multi-instrumentalist’s bizarre diet, “Bass,” was released on Dec. 13 by SCI Fidelity Records.
Don’t be misled by the bass fish on the cover – it doesn’t contain any songs about his latest catch; rather, “Bass” is based on the latest instrument he’s hooked on.
Williams is well known for hopping around the stage from instrument to instrument, utilizing live loops to support his one-man band approach to music. The bassline, oftentimes, is more of a background player in his songs, yet it constitutes the core structure of the song and allows for everything else to fall into place.
The longer-necked guitar takes the lead on “Bass.” In fact, it’s the only instrument Keller plays on the album. Not taking the solo route this time, he is backed by his new band, Kdubilicious, which is Jay Starling on keyboard and Mark D on drums.
Since 1994’s “Freek,” Williams has explored many types of music in his recordings, but has predominately been considered a jam rocker. “Bass,” his 17th album, has him concentrating on reggae-funk with his jam and folk influences flowing in, as well.
The chosen instruments and styles make for a superlative blend. Williams’ and Starling’s utilization of effects and their ace musicianship result in a resonant presentation. The sound created by the bass, keyboard and drums, along with Keller’s warm and personable vocals, is so agreeable that guitar isn’t even missed. If anything, the omission makes the music more interesting.
Whatever mind-blowing solo Williams would normally do on the guitar translates superbly to the bass. The lead, “The Sun and Moon’s Vangenda,” makes a gentle entry, as it’s one of the more folksier songs on the album, but midway, Keller breaks out the kind of jam many of his fans covet.
“Bass” sees Williams in his usual personality: fun-loving, irreverent and sometimes reflective. His lyrics are comical and his playing unpredictable. Some may find him silly, but Keller is the kind of person that doesn’t take life, or his song lyrics, too seriously.
“My imagination goes on vacation, and I like to go there when I have the time, which is all the time,” sings Williams in “I am Elvis,” a song that describes what goes through his mind during times of solitude. He speaks of meditation of one of his favored activities elsewhere on the album, but here, it’s actions like skinny-dipping with the alligators at the zoo and snowboarding in the nude that rule his thoughts. Williams must have an aversion to clothing, because “Positive” reggae also makes him want to get naked.
When he’s not being self-deprecating and making silly observations of the world in which he lives, whether in-mind or out-of-mind, Williams is on the lookout for other songs on which he can put his personal twist. For “Bass,” it’s Morphine’s “Buena” and Beck’s “Hollywood Freaks.” The former certainly fits the bass vibe, and the latter, with its nonsensical words, is in the same vein of some of Keller’s other songs.
Williams isn’t necessarily fishing for new fans with the variant concept of “Bass.” He’s simply reveling the best career he could ask for and making music by whatever means he wants. In recent years, he’s done a children’s album and a couple of bluegrass albums with Larry and Jenny Keel, and now a bass-centric reggae album. He makes albums that please his fanbase without compromising his desire to break new ground in his career. This path affirms Williams’ status as a trailblazer who determines his own path.
Those who play by their own rules tend to put out the most exceptional music; “Bass” continues to uphold Keller Williams’ status as one of these artists.
Keller Williams is online at kellerwilliams.net.