The Red Alert
The Red Alert

Keller & The Keels


(SCI Fidelity)

Record Review by Angel M. Baker


On the aptly titled Thief, Keller Williams joins husband and wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel on a covers album that commandeers tracks from artists across the board. On this 13-song record, Williams and The Keels bring their brand of sweetly blue bluegrass to songs you might not expect to take an Appalachian turn. But like Williams has said, most songs do embrace the country-fication. Even for those songs that don’t quite naturally fit, Williams et al force the reform.


Willliams’ typically upbeat porchy knee-slappin’ feel doesn’t get lost here despite the selection of some heady, angry, and bitter songs. Williams and crew make Amy Winehouse’s rebellious “Rehab” buoyant, Cracker’s “Teen Angst” aloof, and Kris Kristofferson’s anti-war sentiment “The Year 2003 Minus 25” cleverly cheerful. One caveat is that Williams’ sound is so recognizable, most of the songs on Thief sound deceptively similar to one another. This can have the effect of stripping the significance of the intensely unique selection down to uniform toe tapping feel-gooders.


Exceptions to this include “Get It While You Can,” “Mountains of the Moon,” and “Wind’s on Fire.” The trio play Danny Barnes’ “Get It While You Can” saucy banjo jam pretty straight but teamed-up vocals give this track something to cling to. Likewise, on The Grateful Dead’s “Mountains of the Moon,” Williams’ vocals are smokey and harmonization with Larry Keel gives this folk tale a wanton depth. In the middle of the record, Keller & The Keels slow down Yonder Mountain String Band’s “Wind’s on Fire” for a welcome retreat from break-neck speed picking.


From the outlaw cover art to the complete overhaul of stolen songs with a glossy coat of country bluegrass, Thief is a record that doesn’t deny its upbringing, nor the axiom that all art, in some way, borrows from somewhere else. Williams is quoted as saying all his records are self-indulgent but, if they are, Thief doesn’t let on. This is a good collection of covers that Keller & The Keels play humbly well.


More by this writer:

Stereo Total - Baby Ouh!

Venice is Sinking - Sand & Lines

The Morning Benders - Big Echo

Turin Brakes - Outbursts