Tastee-Tone Records – 2016
12 tracks; 51 minutes
Vermont may not be the first place that comes to mind when discussing soul music but Dave Keller has other ideas. Dave has made two previous excellent soul-blues albums: Where I’m Coming From won the IBC award for best self-produced CD in 2011 and Soul Changes earned a BMA nomination and was one of this reviewer’s favourite albums of 2014. The latest CD again blends Dave’s soulful voice and stinging guitar with some excellent horn arrangements on an album of Dave’s original material, with just two shared writing credits and one cover. The album was recorded on home territory in Vermont using Dave’s own band of Ira Friedman on keys, Gary Lotspeich on bass and Brett Hoffman on drums, aided by ‘The Mo’ Sax Horns’ – Jessica Friedman on baritone and alto sax, Joe Moore on tenor sax and Terry Youk on C melody sax; Morgan Klarich and April Caspari are on backing vocals and Michael Close on cello and Paul Reynolds on violin and viola add strings to three cuts.
The lone cover is an obscure song recorded by Willie Clayton in 1974 entitled “It’s Time You Made Up Your Mind” and it makes for a strong opening with great vocals, gutsy horns and Dave’s insistent rhythm guitar. The song was written by Earl Randle, Don Bryant and Darryl Carter who also co-wrote (with Dave) the deeply soulful ballad “Deeper Than The Eye Can See”, the other co-writing credit being to keyboardist Ira Friedman on “Circles”, his churchy organ dominating this slow blues, the longest track here. The remaining tracks are all Dave’s work, ranging from the sweet “She’s Just Katie” which is surely destined to be the ear-worm of this set. Some of Dave’s previous album displayed the heartbreak of a failed relationship; from this track it sounds like Dave is back in love big time, perhaps with the lady of the title. “Forever Summer” is similarly positive as Dave celebrates the end of the winter on another tune with a gorgeous melody. “You Make It Easy” closes the album with another horn-drenched ballad.
There are several fine ballads here but if a tougher style of soul is needed look no further than “2 AM Talks” in which Dave is trying to save a relationship with all-night discussions, a tune with plenty of grit and an outstanding guitar solo on the outro. Title track “Right Back Atcha” has a naggingly catchy backdrop courtesy of the bubbling bari sax and swirling organ and “What’s It Gonna Take” is old-school soul with a rousing chorus. One-time Wilson Pickett saxophonist Joe Moore takes fine tenor solos on “Willing To Learn”, another ‘in love again’ ballad, and on “Slow Train” on which the horns and backing vocals give a real Memphis feel. Dave sounds suitably desperate on “Urgent (I’ll Give It All)” which is driven along by Ira’s organ, the horns adding that distinctive soul feel, suitably topped off by Dave’s exuberant solo – another outstanding track – but that is easy to say on a superb album with no weaknesses at all.
All fans of soul-blues need to add this one to their collection.