11 tracks; 44 minutes
New England-based Dave Keller works in that blue-eyed soul vein, singing in a genuinely soulful voice and adding his guitar to this set of songs. His 2011 album Where I’m Coming From won the best self-produced CD at the IBCs and Soul Changes is already nominated for a BMA in the Soul Blues category, so those who enjoy sweet soul music will want to hear this one.
Working with producer Bob Perry, Dave recorded in two locations. The Memphis sessions were laid down at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios and feature the Hi Rhythm Section of Charles Hodges, organ, Leroy Hodges, bass and Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, guitar, assisted by Bobby Manuel, guitar, Lester Snell, electric piano, Gintas Janusonis, drums and the Royal Horns: Marc Franklin, trumpet, Lannie McMillan Jr, tenor, Kirk Smothers, baritone.
In Brooklyn Dave is backed by The Revelations: Wes Mingus, guitar, Adam Klipple, keys, Ben Zwerin, bass and Gintas Janusonis again holds down the drum stool. Horns come from Geoff Countryman, sax, Joe Ancowitz, trumpet and Rick Parker, trombone. Rell Gaddis and Halley Hiatt add backing vocals to both sessions. All the songs from the Memphis sessions are originals, the Brooklyn set is all covers, but frankly it is hard to tell the difference as Dave’s songs fit right in with those from the likes of George Jackson and Smokey Robinson, originally performed by soul greats like Bobby Womack, Otis Clay and the O’Jays.
The Memphis originals open with the smooth urban soul of “Searchin’ For A Sign”, the bari sax making a significant contribution. On “17 Years” Dave collaborated with Darryl Carter who has written soul classics such as “Blind, Crippled And Crazy”, Dave possibly needing some support as he bares his soul about the breakdown of his marriage – a tender, heart-rending ballad.
Dave remains on the theme of lost love throughout these originals as the lush ballad “Old Man’s Lullabye” finds him reminiscing about what used to be: “I can hear the church bells tolling, midnight comes in this small town. You and I were meant for greater things, like wedding rings, God help me now”. The horns sit this one out but the beautiful organ playing more than compensates.
“I Wish We’d Kissed” is a little more uptempo but still ploughs the same furrow of sadness and regret; “I wish we’d kissed more often, I wish we’d listened better to each other. I wish I could find another lover to make me feel how you made me feel”. “Lonely And I” sounds like it must have been written and recorded years ago, a classic piece of soul music with a great hook in the chorus, but it’s another of Dave’s songs, a touch of reggae in the rhythm to get the feet tapping. However, the song is all about that chorus: “Go on, girl, leave me. I ain’t afraid of lonely, lonely and I get along just fine”. “One More Time” is another ballad with a fine horn arrangement and some really nice guitar features from Dave, bringing the Memphis sessions to a close.
The Brooklyn sessions open with the attractively uptempo “It’s Too Strong”, the horns featuring strongly. The gorgeous George Jackson ballad “Back In Love Again” opens with some delicate piano and Dave’s pleading vocal digs deep into the lyrics about finding love again. The horns return for a storming version of “Don’t Look Back”, once a Temptations tune, now wholly owned by Dave and his Brooklyn cohorts.
A second George Jackson tune “Heart On A String” brings a touch of funk from the rhythm section and a chorus that is all about the horns before Dave gives us a short, tasty guitar solo. “Is It Over?” provides another opportunity for Dave to show us his soul balladeer abilities, the horns embellishing the chorus superbly.
Whether Dave is singing his own emotionally charged material or covering soul classics, the result is the same; this album is superb from start to finish and is a must for anyone who likes soul-blues. Highly recommended.