"38th & Bailey to Chicago & East 16th" is the first release from the Keller Brothers Band since they moved north to the Twin Cities at the suggestion of friend and soul mate Jonny Lang. Although still relatively young, the band cut their teeth in Texas, working a regular slot at Antone's, and backing the likes of Kim Wilson, Lazy Lester, and Angela Strehli. They also earned enough respect to get support slots with several well-known acts, including the late Jimmie Rodgers, and Pinetop Perkins. "38th & Bailey...," a studio affair, unlike its predecessor, offers some insight into why the band are so well-regarded.
Things get underway with "Just Want Enough" which has shades of the Rolling Stones (early 1970's vintage) about it. It offers a pretty good reflection of the band's overall approach, which relies on solid well-played blues-based tunes, edging slightly into rock, without getting too overblown. "Sailin'" merely serves to strengthen first impressions, sounding a little like a mellower blues version of Nirvana (if that is possible!). Again there's some nice guitar work, and solid piano throughout.
Stylistically the band incorporate elements of Chicago and Texas, and even get pretty funky on "Listen." This one sounds like a relative of Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman," after SRV had given it a bit of a makeover. Mike Keller plays the psychedelic sounding guitar solo on one of the eight original tunes that he had a hand in writing; the other two originals were written by keyboard player Matt Farrell. Keller employs a similar guitar effect on "Thought Of You," which precedes the album's finest moment, "Like You Said You Would." The boys really tear this one up, with some Killer piano, and very nice harmony vocals.
The Stones sound reappears most strongly on "Cold, Cold, Cold," the first of two covers, and the penultimate track. The album closes out with Neil Young's "Bird," which also features some nice harmony vocals again. It seems a little out of place given the higher tempo of most of the preceding tracks, although the band give it their all, as usual.
"38th & Bailey to Chicago & East 16th" is a very solid album from the Keller Brothers Band. It comfortably straddles the borders between blues and rock'n'roll, with the most obvious comparison being the Rolling Stones about the time of "Exile On Main Street." It should help to further enhance the band's reputation. You can get "38th & Bailey..." from the band's website (www.kellerbrothersband.com) if your local store does not stock it.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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