Keller & The Keels at Telluride Bluegrass Thursday

Keller & The Keels at Telluride Bluegrass Thursday

[click “Play” to hear Keller Williams in conversation with Susan]

Keller:Keels 2010 credit Melissa T. Colombo I’m just saying. Throughout its wild and wooly history, Telluride has been a haven for misfits and miscreants, so Keller Williams fits right in no problem. I mean this is a guy whose latest album is entitled “Thief.” No accident.

For “Thief,” Williams’ first ever all-covers collection, the iconoclastic one man band broke with tradition and enlisted the help of the husband and wife team of Larry and Jenny Keel, a former Telluride guitar champ and bassist respectively.

The trio performs live at the 37th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival on Thursday, June 17, 1 p.m., and again at Nightgrass at the Sheridan Opera House. The sets should include tracks from the album, which Williams famously described as “self-indulgent, like all of my albums.”

“Thief” includes songs originally written and recorded by as wildly diverse an assemblage as anyone’s ever likely to dream up, from Amy Winehouse (“Rehab”) to the Grateful Dead (“Mountains of the Moon”), the Butthole Surfers (“Pepper”) to Kris Kristofferson (“Don’t Cuss That Fiddle,” which opens the album, and “The Year 2003 Minus 25,” which closes it). The set is filled out with tunes by Ryan Adams, the Presidents of the United States of America, the Raconteurs, Patterson Hood, Danny Barnes, Cracker, the Yonder Mountain String Band and Marcy Playground.

Yes, all across the map. Just the way Williams seems to like it.

Williams’ eclectic tastes were cultivated way back when. The history begins in Virginia, where Williams was born 40 years ago (and lives today). Early musical influences included country and bluegrass, then hip-hop and go-go, a funk varietal. Once he picked up a guitar, Williams’ sphere expanded to what he calls “the post-pseudo-skateboarder punk-rock rebellious type of thing, Black Flag and Sex Pistols and Ramones, Dead Kennedys, neo ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ type stuff.” Up next, the Cure and the Cult, the Smiths, R.E.M.’s first five or six records, melodic college rock. But it was Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead who really rocked Williams’ world. Then Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

Which brings us full circle to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival – “by far my favorite festival” – where Keller gets to show us how he synthesized all that he has learned.

photo credit: Melissa T. Colombo

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