I am powerless to resist the urge to review Keller Williams' newest CD, Loop. It has been anxiously awaited and finally arrived December 6th. The question on my mind as I freed the disc from its packaging was not if the CD would be enjoyable, but what heights of enjoyment it would reach.

Well, Keller took it high into the Rocky Mountains on this one. Recorded live over four shows primarily in the Northwest, Loop captures the musical genius and playful spontaneity of Keller's one-man show perfectly. If you're a new Keller fan, it may be difficult to grasp that the sounds dancing out of your speakers are the product of one man's voice, frenetic guitar work, and sampling machine. This is what makes Keller one of the most revered and awe-inspiring musicians in the country. His hands find all manner of percussive room on his 10-string guitar, and bass parts hold hands with lively melodies. He also "loops" his parts, allowing him to lay down a bass line (on an actual bass sometimes) or other sound and let it repeat in the background, while he adds more to the stew. As you can imagine, the result is the pure ideas of a musician, made tangible in real time, on stage. Did I mention this is ONE GUY?

OK, for all you KW heads, this disc is what you're looking for to satisfy your jones. The purchase price is dwarfed immediately by the opening trio of Thin Mint, Kiwi and the Apricot, and More Than a Little. You would need "little more" than this opening segment, recorded on March 30, 2000 in Oregon, to properly introduce someone to the infinite styles of Keller and make them a fan for life. In a span of 16 minutes, you get a wistful instrumental, a slightly lecherous groove, and the funkiest of funky loop-filled excursions that incorporates bass, guitar, beatbox, vocals, and mouth flugel into one lowdown, free-flowing masterpiece.

Blatant Ripoff, which also appeared on Breathe, is next, and offers a true loop frenzy, as five Kellers combine to create a dizzying jam. Keller's songwriting prowess shines on the next track, Vacate, which also appeared on Breathe CD with String Cheese Incident. Perhaps the most enjoyable tune on the disc is Kidney in a Cooler, a hilarious tale of the unpredictability of vehicles, having to wait for repairs due to lazy mechanics, and a woman who had to get her car fixed first "so she could deliver the kidney". This is all over an irresistably body-moving groove, created mostly by guitar.

The next two tunes, The Landlord and the reflective Turn in Difference, offer a more laid back approach, the former having almost no lyrics except cryptic repetitions of "You are my Landlord" over a decidedly more sinister sound. After that, its right back to Keller's trademark humor on No Hablo Espanol, a short ditty sung entirely in intentionally bad Spanish. Another masterful instumental follows, Rockumal, a vaguely eastern-tinged number that begs the listener to hop in their car and drive. Keller's jaw-dropping skill is showcased more blatantly here than any other track.

Stupid Questions, another track originally on Breathe, is next, and this fine vocal song pokes fun at the absurdity of questions in general. It's chorus of "who what when where why how much" has become a mantra among Keller and SCI fans alike. This solo version exudes more vitality than any of the SCI-backed versions. The album draws to a close with the classic Inhale to the Chief, a mostly instrumental tune that may or may not have been titled in reference to Bill Clinton's "I did not inhale" fiasco. The loops are spookier than ever, as Keller's master soundman sends them rumbling from left to right and back again. It ends with the now-famous toking sound and indian cry that Keller fans faithfully replicate at his shows. A rare song called Nomini ends the disc, and it's hard to decipher whether Keller is making it up as he goes or simply putting a fierce spin on one of his many guitar compositions.

This is definitely the best portrait of an artist contained in one disc in years, as newer tunes mingle amongst classics in the live setting. In Kidney in a Cooler, Keller fantasizes about having "a big-ass bus" with a "disco ball and an escalator up to the dance hall". With talent so obvious, he may not have to dream much longer.

Buy Loop Now!
Bryan Rodgers
JamBase HGMN Correspondent
Go LOOP Live Music!

Beginning on January 17, the Loop tour begins at Khyber Pass in Philadelphia followed by a not-to-miss stop at The Wetlands on January 18. The tour then heads up into New England with stops in Providence, Burlington, and the House of Blues in Cambridge. Other key stops include the 8x10 in Baltimore on February 2, a two-night stand at Stella Blue in Asheville on February 14 & 15 (bring your sweetie!), and the Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale on February 28. Find out when Keller is coming to your town!

[Published on: 1/11/01]

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