Review by John Mikeska + Press Info
In a stately theatre fit for Shakespearean production, Fredericksburg, VA native and jam-scene hall of famer, Keller Williams, joined the indelible Leo Kottke for an intimate performance at Jackson Wyoming’s The Center for the Arts. A relaxed atmosphere greeted the audience as they conversed lightly in jovial reminiscence. If my first experience serves me right, then there’s always a hometown crowd at The Center. The pre-game banter was even more familiar than you’d think for a typical night of music. Not necessarily devoid of the anticipatory buzz that usually pervades the pre-show experience, but more of a neighborhood gathering at an inspired setting.
If anything, I was surprised at how fresh my perceptions were of these two artists as I’ve long been acquainted with their music. The Center, and the surrounding vista, seems to have a unique way of facilitating comfort and inspiring awe, so that come show-time, you’re more like the younger version of yourself that stood in wonderment as the honking blasts of a marching band paraded along than you are the much older version, where you might sit lonely in a jazz club, loftily snubbing the cat playing “Impressions” for attempting Coltrane.
With renewed purity of spirits and a Moscow Mule (pun intended), we awaited Leo’s set.
Picking up the guitar and playing with a dreamlike dexterity, Leo Kottke played a set that ineffably blurred the lines between music and storytelling. Keller listened to the entire show on the backstage PA that’s used during theatre productions so actors can hear their stage cues.
After a tuning-song where he recanted a time in London when Ronnie Scott played to a near empty house and begrudgingly admitted “I should have stayed in bed… There were more people there,” a swell of laughter gave way to Leo’s take on the Pete Seeger tune “Living in the Country”. Going between streams-of-notes that were sometimes riotous and sometimes subtle, he moves from full-expansive chords to precise melodies with the crowd like putty in his hands.
An admitted bookworm and part-time recluse, Leo has a way of expressing a vast well of knowledge in an entirely approachable way; devoid of pretension. As a workingman’s intellectual, his delivery has a way of making you feel like your catching up with an old friend.
“When you’ve lost confidence in your own opinions, any other will do….. And that’s how the 3rd Reich was started”
He has a unique way of playing material that’s delightfully approachable and altogether challenging to the ear depending on your decided focus.
If you want to sit on the bank and merrily imbibe as Leo’s music flows along – you can do that. However, if you want to jump in the current and navigate the rapid technicalities of his melodic flourishes, well, the water’s warm and more than capable of redeeming your most ardent scrutiny.
“The wedding ended in a marriage… The marriage ended in three years”
-Leo Kottke, on the writing of “Rings”
After a few more storytelling/song numbers, Keller came out and joined Leo on stage for “Rings.” For this song, Keller played a captivating harmonic based melody-line that caused the notes to “ring” out for a visceral contribution to the tune.
Keller, affectionately known as K-dub, can make you laugh on both ends of the spectrum, ranging from astonishing musicality to hilariously well-timed witticisms.
During his set, Keller played a track off 2015’s Vape, “Jesus’s Gun”, a satirical number and social commentary on America’s obsession with firearms. He talks about walking through a Super Target with an “over the shoulder rocket launcher”; a poignant if not entirely tongue-in-cheek offering for The Center given Wyoming’s crimson political climate.
Next up, the Grateful Dead tune “Bird Song” came off beautifully, with jazzy chord subs and sparkling dissonance. Backstage, after the show, Keller commented on how his arrangement for the GD cover was composed “all by feel”.
I’m not writing anything down. It’s definitely a feeling thing especially with the Dead stuff. That [Bird Song] has kind of turned into more of a straight ahead jazz-song. In the looping thing there’ll be a walking bass/jazz line and it’s a little bit sped up. I do it a little bit faster than the Dead would do it. That’s been one of my favorite tunes to play as far as the Dead goes. – Keller Willaims
“Kidney in a Cooler” came complete with an inspired back-and-forth with the audience. Another classic K-dub tune “Best Feeling” got a freshly spirited treatment. When I asked Keller about the change from his normative role to the stripped down approach he said it was “absolutely 100% refreshing” and this song made you believe him.
Leo and Keller are similar conceptually – born from the same cosmic egg in that they both express themselves with a unique originality as solo-artists. They have a way of harnessing the “precise-looseness” that I’ve always noticed in Jerry’s playing. A way of playing so relaxed and pure, it seems like they might just miss the next note before landing on it, perfectly, with style.
Today, Keller Williams announces that he wants everyone to “Shut the Folk Up and Listen” some more in 2017. Starting in January, Keller will continue his 2016 collaboration with Leo Kottke by playing 24 additional “Shut the Folk Up and Listen” tour dates across the country. For this tour Keller goes back to his roots, with just an acoustic guitar, he’ll share the stage with one of his musical idols, flat picking six and twelve string guitarist Leo Kottke. This unique evening of music features solo sets by both artists and spontaneous collaborations between the two.
In Keller’s words, “The ‘Shut the Folk Up and Listen Tour’ is an interesting night at the theater. It starts with one of my acoustic heroes, Leo Kottke. Playing his signature 6 and 12 string Taylor guitars, he effortlessly takes the audience on a journey through his mind by way of his hilarious stories and warm acoustic perfection, just as he has for the past several decades. I’m honored to join him for the last few songs of his set which then leads into a short intermission. After hearing every word and note of Leo’s set through my in ear monitor system, I then take the stage fully inspired…”
In addition to the twenty-four dates with Kottke, Keller Williams’ four piece project called KWahtro which is currently in the midst of a Fall Tour, will tour again in January 2017 in support of Keller’s newest, and soon to be announced, album over a three night run in the Pacific Northwest. And of course, anyone who has followed Keller over the years, will know that no Keller tour would be complete without a few Keller solo shows. This time around Keller is bringing his solo project to six cities in the Midwest.
As always, stay tuned for more to come on Keller’s Winter Tour and his 2017 album releases!
Complete Tour Dates
11/03 Saint Rocke | Hermosa Beach, CA | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/04 Belly Up | San Diego, CA | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/05 Marquee | Tempe, AZ | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/10 Music Farm | Columbia, SC | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/11 The Neighborhood Theatre | Charlotte, NC | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/12 The Orange Peel | Asheville, NC | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/17 White Oak | Houston, TX | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/18 Granada Theater | Dallas, TX | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/19 Scoot Inn | Austin, TX | KWahtro with special guest Zach Deputy
11/25 9:30 Club | Washington, DC | Thanksforgrassgiving ft. Jeff Austin, Danton Boller, Jay Starling and Nick Sanders with special guest Love Canon
11/26 The National | Richmond, VA | Thanksforgrassgiving ft. Jeff Austin, Danton Boller, Jay Starling and Nicky Sanders with special guest Love Canon
12/09-13 Strings & Sol | Puerto Morelos, Mexico | Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Keller & the Keels
12/30 Electric Factory | Philadelphia, PA | Keller Williams Solo with Dark Star Orchestra
12/31 Rams Head Live | Baltimore, MD | Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel & Keller Williams Solo with special guest John Kadlecik Band
01/12 Ridgefield Playhouse | Ridgefield, CT | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
01/13 Paramount Theatre | Rutland, VT | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
01/14 The Colonial Theatre | Keene, NH | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
01/19 WoW Hall | Eugene, OR | KWahtro
01/20 Wonder Ballroom | Portland, OR | KWahtro
01/21 Nectar Lounge| Seattle, WA | KWahtro
01/26 Reilly Arts Center | Ocala, FL | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
01/27 Capitol Theater | Clearwater, FL | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
01/28 Parker Playhouse | Fort Lauderdale, FL | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/02 Live at the Ludlow Garage | Cincinnati, FL | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/03 Carnegie of Homestead Music | Pittsburg, PA | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/04 Performing Arts Center Rockwell Hall | Buffalo, NY | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/09 Redstone Room | Davenport, IA | Keller Williams Solo
02/10 Waiting Room | Omaha, NE | Keller Williams Solo
02/11 The Cedar | Minneapolis, MN | Keller Williams Solo
02/16 Carolina Theatre | Durham, NC | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/17 Carolina Theatre | Greensboro, NC | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/23 New York Society for Ethical Culture | New York, NY | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/24 State Theatre | New Brunswick, NJ | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
02/25 Cabot Performing Arts Center | Beverly, MA | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke &
03/09 Sheldon Concert Hall | St. Louis, MO | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller
03/10 Park West | Chicago, IL | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
03/11 Barrymore Theatre | Madison, WI | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
03/16 Blind Pig | Ann Arbor, MI | Keller Williams Solo
03/17 Intersection | Grand Rapids, MI | Keller Williams Solo
03/18 The Vogue | Indianapolis, IN | Keller Williams Solo
03/30 The State Room | Salt Lake City, UT | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
04/01 Green Valley Rec Center | Green Valley, AZ | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke
04/06 Florida Theatre | Jacksonville, FL | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
04/07 Variety Playhouse | Atlanta, GA | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
04/08 Charleston Music Hall | Charleston, SC | Shut the Folk Up & Listen ft. Leo Kottke & Keller Williams
Additional dates to be announced. Tickets and Info available at http://www.kellerwilliams.net
For all inquiries, please contact:
Isabel Vandeventer Madison House, Inc. Isabel@madison-house.com