Until last night, I had never had the pleasure of seeing Keller Williams live. Many friends, most of them SCI fans who know of Williams through his association with The Incident, had told me of his boundless talent and captivating presence, but I had just not made it out to one of his shows. When I heard that he was playing at Smith's Olde Bar, a small club in Atlanta, I decided to check him out myself.

There are very few people who can entertain a room full of people with just their voice and an acoustic guitar, but Keller Williams is one of them. His voice has astonishing range and power, and he is capable of imitating instruments like the trumpet with a Bobby McFerrin-like accuracy. He has some sort of sampling machine which allows him to layer several tracks single-handedly, and achieved great results with this technique on the tune "Breathe," which opened the show very strongly.

His wry sense of humor was in evidence throughout the night, as when he played an achingly sincere unplugged version of the Michael Jackson disco-cheese classic "Rock With You." One of my favorite moments had to be when his delicate version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" was rendered nearly inaudible by the noisy, drunken bar crowd, and Williams effortlessly glided into Phish's "The Sloth," enunciating the "Spend my time in bars" line with relish.

But the best part of the show was the guitar. I don't feel like pulling punches, so here it is: Keller Williams is in a rare class with Jorma Kaukonen as the best acoustic guitarists I have ever seen personally. His command of his instrument was nothing short of astounding. Every note his custom 10-string guitar contained, from the deepest, bassiest chords to the most tender harmonics, was at his fingertips at any moment. Now that I have seen Keller Williams, I can honestly say that he lives up to nickname of "The Man Made Of Music." See him as soon as you can, you won't be disappointed!

Peace and Music,
Rob Johnson

[Published on: 10/19/00]

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