Keller Williams’ Dream Team (Relix Revisited)
Keller and some of his dream team cover Nirvana
Williams’ affability enabled him to engage a roster of participants that included his aforementioned idols along with, among others, John Scofield, Steve Kimock, John Molo and Jeff Sipe. Ultimately, only four of the individuals that he approached failed to participate. Out of respect for the artists he declines to name names, but he does reveal that “one was a drummer that never said yes or no and three were female singer/songwriters who did say no.” (One can guess that at least one of the women was Ani DiFranco, whom Keller has included in his pantheon of dream musicians, and the drummer well may have been Carter Beauford, whom Keller names for his fantasy Dream team along with Wooten and Jerry Garcia).
One final intriguing possibility that Keller himself quashed was Michael Stipe. Williams explains, “I had been a big fan of college rock, where you had R.E.M., The Smiths and Public Image [Ltd.]. So I thought about Michael Stipe and getting into some wordplay that doesn’t necessarily mean anything like something off Murmur, Reckoning or Chronic Town, where you can barely understand what he’s saying and if you put the words together it doesn’t mean anything. I was thinking about Michael Stipe and heading in that direction but I didn’t quite go out to him.”
On Dream, however, he does mimic another style of music. The opening track, “Play This,” is the product of a challenge to write a song similar to the ones he heard during a 15-minute block on Fredericksburg’s WYSK, “The Rock Alternative.” The result shares a sonic perspective with P.O.D. and Sum 41, even if the lyrics remain soundly in Keller’s World, as he sings about “audible abuse,” marbles in the mouth and throws “some fuzz on it.” “It pokes fun at that genre the same way ‘One Hit Wonder’ [from Laugh ] poked fun at the music industry,” Keller explains. “Although it seems that the music industry doesn’t really have that kind of sense of humor.”
Still, the song does affirm Williams’ arguably macabre interest in radio, which led him to make a brief run at the major labels with Dream.
“I was wondering what kind of reaction we would get from the majors. There are a couple instances on this record where I thought these songs could go on the radio but I guess they just weren’t there for these major-label type of people. We shipped it around some and we didn’t get any kind of love. We didn’t get into the way it’s actually done by hiring lawyers to go out and do it, we just sent some copies to acquaintances we had at these labels. From what little we heard back, they just didn’t have any interest. It all just stemmed from curiosity: We decided to give it a try and see if it would remotely work and it didn’t. So we’re back to where we’re comfortable and I call the shots, which is the way it should be, really.”
No doubt it helps that Dream succeeds on its own terms; Keller’s voice resonates, despite some stylistic maneuvering from song to song. The same could be said of Williams’ live show, as he will continue his loop-infused solo touring well into 2007. While he downplays the possibility of joining The String Cheese Incident, he does indicate that for the first time since his Fredericksburg bar-band days, he will perform some summer festival dates with a group (which may or may not be called the WMDs) and then possibly continue with them on a fall tour.
Beyond that, at some point he aims to pick some of the music he jettisoned en route to Dream. His daughter Ella remains an inspiration and he acknowledges that “I have four songs I’ve written just for fun for a possible kids record. That’s been in the mental works for some time and it definitely will happen one day.” This in turn may well carry the playful songwriter on a circuitous route to a place that some might say the longtime Fredericksburg resident has never left: back to his Youth.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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