Keller Williams Brings Funk to Cain’s

Contributing Writer


Courtesy Roger Gupta

Funk returns to Cain’s Ballroom on Feb. 27 in the form of Keller Williams, a musician who is no stranger to Tulsa’s historic hall.

“You can feel the music dripping off the walls,” he says. “A lot of music has been in that room. It’s a joy to be there.”

Williams has built a music career that is noted for a number of unique attributes: energetic and creative live performances and his innovation on guitar. He is the type of musician who never settles in one genre but is immediately recognizable in any context. His musical palette includes bluegrass and folk, jazz, funk, electronica, reggae, alternative rock, and pop.

As Williams gained a name for himself in the 1990s, fans were drawn to his use of guitar pedals and “looping” technology. He became known as a “one-man jam band” for his affinity for playing multiple instruments by himself. The process usually involves him playing live phrases on bass or guitar and mixing them in real time as loops. He then builds on the foundation by singing, playing percussion, whistling or playing more guitar parts – whatever the moment calls for. The possibilities are endless. The results are impressive, fun and danceable.

Williams is touring with a five-man band in support of his latest album, Funk. The album represents an official declaration of a new collaborative project with the five-man band, dubbed More Than a Little. The band is comprised of some heavy hitters in the gospel and R&B scene of Williams’ home state, Virginia.

The album captures a band firing on all cylinders and is a selection of songs recorded live plus four new Williams songs and several revisited favorites. There are even a few covers, including Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime, Grateful Dead’s West L.A. Fadeaway and Rick James’ Mary Jane. As the album title implies, the band explores the funk genre through the musical prism of Williams, prompting one to ask if this is Williams’ take on funk, or a funky take on Williams. Either way, Funk successfully conveys the energy of the band’s live performance: they breathe as one organism.

When Williams takes the Cain’s stage, although he has a few specific plans in mind, his overall goal remains the same as at every show: to provide an experience that delivers crowd favorites and keep the music fresh and in the moment. “I’m trying not to let things get stagnant. Every day I’m going to try to do something new,” he says.

Williams’ collaborative spirit that has placed him on tour with More Than a Little has also led him to share the stage with some of the finest musicians around. Bands like String Cheese Incident, The Travelin’ McCourys, Leftover Salmon and members of the Grateful Dead, to drop a few names, have regularly included Williams in their tribes. Recently, he found himself performing alongside one of his favorite guitarists, Steve Kimock, who has his own connections to Grateful Dead alumni.

“I’m a huge fan of Kimock,” says Williams. “Having his amazing guitar tone in my in-ear monitors, cranked – it’s like walking a fine line between that adrenaline of live performance and being, like, a super uber-fan.”

Clearly, Williams is a hot commodity, and his 2014 calendar proves it. It continues to grow fuller with notable tours and shows.

Updated 01-28-2014

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