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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday ó March 26, 2004

Weekend Living

Keller Williams:
A loopy kind of musician

Express Staff Writer

Musician Keller Williams brings a kind of wacky invention to his shows. Though heís a solo artist, with his unique looping abilities, his music is more wall of sound than coffee shop acoustic.

A Virginia native, Williams performs 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Tickets are available by calling the theaterís ticket line at 726-4tks. Williamsí live shows revolve around solo acoustic guitar and vocals, he said. "Itís kind of alternative dancey folk music but not in the traditional sense. Kind of my own thing, really."

Get it?

Guitarist Keller Williams performs in Ketchum Wednesday night. Courtesy photo

He explained: "I do live phrase sampling. Nothing is prerecorded. Instead, itís recorded on stage and played back, so I have a loop going and I can layer on top of that like a bass or drum line to get this whole band sound up there."

Another way of putting it is that his shows are a cross between folk and DJ-ing.

"The technology has changed, but itís not a new idea," he said from California, where heís on tour before heading to Idaho. "Now itís all digital. I got it from bass player Victor Wooten, whoís a member of Bella Fleck and Fleck Tones. I opened for him a couple times in 1998. I had the wrong tools, so he showed me what kind of tools to use."

So on stage, heís literally playing a guitar, harmonica, drum, vibraphone and other sound-making items. He plays lots of original music, but has his favorite covers as well.

"Iím a musician first. Thereís a lot of original material on my albums, but I get bored playing my own stuff. I play Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Coldplay, whatever strikes my fancy at the time. Thereís no set list."

Other musical inspiration comes by way of Michael Hedges, with a dash of Jimi Hendrix and Ani DiFranco thrown in.

But Williams doesn't just make use of the whiz-kid technology to create. Heís equally adept at putting over a song in his warm, friendly tenor on one of his 10-string guitars.

Over the course of eight albumsóhis latest "Home" is on String Cheese Incidentís labelóand boundless touring, Williams has built a following. While talking on the phone he was interrupted by a fan who had made a CD of her own for him to listen to. Maybe sheís a tour follower. Williams is unfailingly polite and encouraging. A nice guy, in fact.

Williams plays approximately 120 shows a year, including such festivals as Bonaroo, Telluride, Bumpershoot and High Sierra. Heís played often with String Cheese Incident, as well as with Bob Weir and Rat Dog and Rusted Root.

Nice guy or mad scientist? Only going to hear him will help decide. On the other hand, a whole new moniker might arise. Thatís how unpredictable the show could be.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.