Album Review: Keller Williams Keys in tribute to The Grateful Dead

Keller Williams, best know as the one-man jam band, recently released his new album Keys, which focuses on only one instrument and one charity. The album is a collection of Grateful Dead songs with 100% of the proceeds going to The Rex Foundation, a charitable non-profit organization that was started by the Grateful Dead and gives grants to various causes. Keller Williams has a full schedule for this summer, making stops at festivals such as Summer Camp, All Good, Delfest and Equifunk. Keller Williams routinely uses the technique of live-phrase-looping with multiple instruments, which makes for a marvelous and unique show each time.  I was expecting to hear such a performance on the album, however, was left with only a piano.

KW.Keys_.cover__1I discovered the jam band scene less than three years ago and therefore, my Grateful Dead knowledge is limited. Regardless, I do enjoy their music all the same and had to re-listen to some of the original songs before listening to Keller Williams’ version.  It was a great album to unwind to, with Williams’ soothing mellow voice and gentle finger playing. Keys definitely gives the songs a fresh perspective of the classic hits, but it’s not quite the same. I missed the groovy guitar riffs, pounding keyboards, familiar voices and steady rhythm that I associated with the GD. One of the best parts about listening to Keys is with the only sounds being the piano keys and Williams voice, it made the lyrics stand out so much more. Williams gave each song a new meaning by performing Robert Hunter’s psychedelic lyrics and Jerry Garcia’s melodies with a caring heart and impeccable finger playing.

Keller’s thoughts on the album bear repeating, to show the personal connection he has with the music: “It’s no secret I have an unhealthy fascination with the Grateful Dead. Whenever I sit down at the piano its seems the only thing that comes out are Jerry ballads.  Even though these songs are not all Jerry ballads, I have sort of made them that way.  The lyrics, although I’ve been singing them most of my adult life, are not 100% perfect….like any other music I play, I’ve taken liberties.  All of the proceeds from the sale of these songs goes to support the Rex Foundation, which was started by the Grateful Dead, in the 80’s….so you can feel good about that! ”

The album is available through iTunes currently for digital download, remember it’s for charity.

Key Tracks: Brokedown Palace, Bird Song, Row Jimmy