Northeastern blues can be heard echoing from the mountains of Vermont in Dave Keller’s new album Right Back Atcha. The September 23 release date came just a day after the start of fall and his lyrics are symbolically vibrant with a colorful spirit and a life-changing attitude.
Recorded in the Green Mountain State, Keller recruited a 3-piece horn section, two backup vocalists and a small string ensemble to collaborate with his usual members of The Dave Keller Band. The diverse talent was used right off the bat in “It’s Time You Made Up Your Mind,” which serves as the opening track and the lone cover on the album. Willie Clayton originally brought the song to the studio during the peak of his funk-soul era in 1974 and much like Keller, Clayton didn’t see much in the way of commercial success or critic recognition until he was ripe into his 40s. Keller tips his hat to the roots he knows best while adding his own modern blues sound to this underplayed gem.
Title track, “Right Back Atcha” has a very seductive brass and bass combination highlighted by Jessica Friedman’s baritone sax. Although the lyrical structure is very inventive, I found the song somewhat off putting, as I know that Keller is around the same age as my father and singing about his sexy time with a woman. The album artwork on the back of his LP lets us know Keller is still getting freaky and his not-so-subtle innuendos complete the picture. Putting my personal issues with the song’s story behind, Keller nails his silky guitar solo and gets some help from the backup vocalists to bring this sonic, sweaty bang to a finish.
After the most provocative track on the album, Keller hits us with his first love ballad entitled, “Deeper Than The Eye Can See.” Original band member, Ira Friedman, warms the tune up with a soft piano introduction before Keller gently harmonizes with the female backup singers. This lyrically and vocally soulful composition is reminiscent of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” and will leave you feeling all the feels the same way Van the Man does.
“Circles” clocks in as the longest track of Right Back Atcha, which allows time for the Hammond B3 organ to really drive home the profound message. If “Deeper Than The Eye Can See” is Keller’s way of expressing the beauty of being in love, “Circles” tells the tale of how shitty life can be during the confusing parts. He lets his guitar solo do the crying as Friendman’s B3 steals the show during this deep-rooted blues piece.
Vermont may one of the least populated states in the country, but that doesn’t prohibit their bands from getting funky. While Keller’s subject matter may be geared towards an older crowd in terms of the over-the-hump, post mid-life crisis topics presented in the lyrics, I can still get down with the eclectic musical arrangements he brought to the studio. This isn’t the type of album that someone in their twenties would throw on during a party, but give me twenty more years of experience and Right Back Atcha may be found on my iPhone 17 shuffle.
Key Tracks: Right Back Atcha, Circles, You Make It Easy