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Keller Williams & Leo Kottke
February 25, 2017 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Those who’ve followed Keller Williams’ recording career to date know that he has given each of his albums a single-syllable title: FREEK, BUZZ, SPUN, BREATHE, LOOP, LAUGH, HOME, DANCE, STAGE, GRASS, DREAM, TWELVE, LIVE, ODD, THIEF, KIDS, BASS, PICK, FUNK, and most recently, VAPE, released April 20, 2015. Each title serves not only as a concise summation of the concept guiding the particular project but also as another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Keller Williams. GRASS, for example, is a bluegrass recording, cut with the husband-wife duo the Keels. STAGE is a live album and DREAM the end product of a wish list: Keller collaborating with some of his greatest musical heroes. THIEF is a set of unexpected cover songs. And KIDS offers up, you guessed it, Williams’ first and possibly only children’s record.
Since he first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, Williams has defined the term independent artist. And his recordings tell only half the story. Keller built his reputation initially on his engaging live performances, no two of which are ever alike. For most of his career he has performed solo. His stage shows are rooted around Keller singing his compositions and choice cover songs, while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. With the use of today’s technology, Keller creates samples on the fly in front of the audience, a technique called live phrase sampling or looping, With nothing pre-recorded, the end result often leans toward a hybrid of alternative folk and groovy electronica, a genre Keller jokingly calls “acoustic dance music” or ADM.”
Raised in 12 different states, acoustic guitarist absorbed a variety of musical influences as a child, flirting with both violin and trombone, before abandoning Stravinsky for the guitar at age 11.
After adding a love for the country-blues of Mississippi John Hurt to the music of John Phillip Sousa and Preston Epps, Kottke joined the Navy underage, to be underwater, and eventually lost some hearing shooting at lightbulbs in the Atlantic while serving on the USS Halfbeak, a diesel submarine.
Discharged in 1964, he settled in the Twin Cities area and became a fixture at Minneapolis’ Scholar Coffeehouse, which had been home to Bob Dylan and John Koerner. He issued his 1968 recording debut LP Twelve String Blues, recorded on a Viking quarter-inch tape recorder, for the Scholar’s tiny Oblivion label.
Kottke’s 1971 major-label debut, Mudlark, positioned him somewhat uneasily in the singer/songwriter vein, despite his own wishes to remain an instrumental performer. Still, despite arguments with label heads as well as with Bruce, Kottke flourished during his tenure on Capitol, as records like 1972’s “Greenhouse” and 1973’s live “My Feet Are Smiling” and “Ice Water” found him branching out with guest musicians and honing his guitar technique.