Dave Keller proves Every Souls a Star

You may not be aware of the name, but if you have heard Ronnie Earl’s Living In The Light album, then you have definitely heard Dave Keller. Now this Massachusetts born, Vermont based singer and guitarist has a new album out, the title of which bottles up neatly the essence of his voice, his playing and his songwriting…Every Soul’s A Star takes all of his influences (Sam McClain, Robert Ward, Paul Rishell and Johnny Rawls to name a few) and delivers a strong set of soul songs with a tinge of blues infused mainly into the guitar pieces. I suppose the nearest ‘mainstream’ analogy would be Robert Cray but Keller has little more sting and grit to his delivery. This is his 6th album (if you count his ‘with’ billing on Brother Bob White’s release) since his solo debut with Play For Love in 2009.

The opening track, Don’t Let Them Take Your Joy, has subtle horn intro and a clever guitar phrasing that produce a late 60s sound…think of a bluesier, electrified Temptations. The guitar solo brings an edge to the song that lifts it above a standard pop structure; although it could have been longer for me. The title track, Every Soul’s A Star, is lighter and even more soulful with the horns again fleshing out the sound as the guitars strum behind and sparse use of the backing vocals adds a lovely atmosphere. Baby, I Love You, is the only cover. It’s a Ronnie Shannon song originally covered by Aretha Franklin in 1967. Funky guitar and Hammond give it a different identity and Keller’s vocals and the clever use of the backing vocalists drench the whole thing in pure soul. The outro solo is a true highlight and I only wish it hadn’t been faded so quickly. Old Tricks is a lilting soul/blues with Keller’s voice again showing his influences without cloning. A couple of neat B3 solos warms it up and although the guitar remains in the background, the strumming is apt and played with admirable restraint. You Bring The Sunshine keeps to the pattern with the horn intro and soulful vocals over B3 and guitar. The solo this time however comes from a very tastily delivered electric piano. Freedom Is Ours lyrically tackles current-day issues, such as the increased authoritarianism that seems to be the plat du jour of politicians (nearly) everywhere. Its dark message is alleviated by a clever, almost plaintive guitar solo. This Is Gonna Hurt is another mid-tempo shuffle with the horns and guitar backing soulful vocals. The guitar solo (too short) is a very neat and well-judged display of subtle picking and gives the song the edge it needed. It’s All In Your Eyes is a B3 led funky soul song with some clever lyrics that I totally agree with! This is my favourite because of the way it stands out from the rest with the time signatures, but most of all because of a brilliantly interpreted guitar solo which pours blues into the soul of the song. Kiss Me Like You Miss Me has echoes of Otis Redding, and features tasty B3 over the horns, and another very good (short) guitar solo. When Are You Gonna Cry? starts with just B3 and vocals and develops into a slow soul song which may well make you answer the question the title poses. The guitar solo is a lesson in putting the soul of the lyrics into the careful picking. Final track, Ain’t Givin In, wraps it all up with soulful funk back on the menu. This again could have been a 60s/70s soul hit as it has all of the ingredients of those times…with the added spice of an understated, full of feeling guitar solo.

This is a very powerful album and, although I tend toward blues rather than the deep soul on offer here, I cannot help but enjoy Keller’s songwriting. It is a little too much for my ears (and heartstrings) in one sitting but there is still plenty to glean from this album, albeit on shuffle for me; but if you do like deep and meaningful soul, you’ll love this album.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Don’t Let Them Take Your Joy
  2. Every Soul’s a Star
  3. Baby I Love You
  4. Old Tricks
  5. You Bring The Sunshine
  6. Freedom Is Ours
  7. This Is Gonna Hurt
  8. It’s All In Your Eyes
  9. Kiss Me Like You Miss Me
  10. When Are You Gonna Cry?
  11. Ain’t Givin’ In

Musicians:
Dave Keller: guitar, vocals
Johnny McGee; guitar
Bob Trenchard: bass
Dan Ferguson: B3, Wurlitzer, keyboards
Richy Puga: drums
Mike Middleton: trumpet
Nick Flood: tenor and baritone saxophone
Christopher Surrano: percussion
Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston: backing vocals

Recorded at Sonic Ranch Studio and produced by Jim Gaines

Dave Keller proves Every Souls a Star

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