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Keller & the Keels - thief
CD Review by Jud Conway on 4/27/2010   

Keller Williams’ much-anticipated 15th album will be released on SCI Fidelity Records on May 25th. This 40-year old Virginia native has once again teamed with the husband and wife duo of Larry and Jenny Keel under the moniker Keller & the Keels, the same collaborative configuration that culminated in 2006’s critically-acclaimed Grass. The new disc, entitled thief, is the trio’s first collection of cover tunes.

Not surprising to those fans already familiar with the Grass album, thief possesses a bluegrass-tinged flavor throughout its thirteen selections. Each song is imparted with a crisp, clean acoustic quality and, in many cases, is also complemented by organic vocal harmonies. The intensity and interplay between the guitar virtuosity of Keller and the flat-picking genius of Larry Keel is palpable. These are purveyors at the tops of their game exchanging tasteful phrases and dazzling licks on the rich palates of their respective musical vocabularies. Adding Jenny Keel’s upright bass-playing and tenor harmony is the proverbial icing on the cake for this already formidable musical force.

And as for the trio’s unique choice of covers… essentially, Keller & the Keels have traversed the musical map and returned home with inspired and, yes… even sometimes oddball renditions of mostly "deep tracks" from far, far off the beaten path. Collectively, the thirteen tracks on thief are as diverse and satisfying as an episode of Keller’s Cellar, the syndicated radio show Williams has hosted for the past seven years. The album is book-ended by a pair of Kris Kristofferson tunes, "Don’t Cuss the Fiddle" and "The Year 2003 Minus 25." In between those outlaw country classics, the trio tackles everything from "Uncle Disney" by Patterson Hood of the Drive-by Truckers, complete with a cappella three-part harmony to "Bath of Fire," a lesser-known cut from nineties-era alternative radio favorites The Presidents of the United States.

Other thief tracks include a killer version of the Grateful Dead’s "Mountains of the Moon" and a grassed-up version of Ryan Adams’ "Cold Roses." The Raconteurs’ "Switch and the Spur" and Cracker’s classic "Teen Angst" are nestled comfortably amongst the likes of Amy Winehouse’s "Rehab" and Marcy Playground’s "Sex and Candy." Throw in cuts from the Bad Livers’ Danny Barnes, Yonder Mountain String Band, and the Butthole Surfers and you’ve got some idea of what stolen moments thief has to offer.

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