“Every Soul’s A Star” is the label debut (Catfood Records) for soul/blues singer and guitar player Dave Keller. It’s a formidable effort in the realm of old-school R&B and soul. The album is produced by Grammy Award winner Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Luther Allison – one of my all-time personal favorites), and was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas.
The three things that jump out to me on this record are: 1) Keller’s soulful vocals; 2) Keller’s stellar guitar playing; and 3) Smart choices with production. Nothing is overdone. It’s tasteful. Horns are in the right place. Background vocals are in the right place. All the instruments sit nicely in the sound field. It’s polished, but not slick. Well done.
Catfood Records has a house band, The Rays. They have extensive experience backing up many artists in the studio, including Blues Music Award-winner Johnny Rawls (another one of my favorites). While the entire band is top notch, the standout is Johnny McGhee, who has Steve Cropper-level R&B rhythm/groove guitar skills.
A little background on Keller, and then we’ll get back to the music – Keller is based in New England, and known for his energetic live performances, often leaving the stage to play in the crowd. While being from Massachusetts, Keller is esteemed in the blues, being mentored by Mighty Sam McClain, guitar player Robert Ward, Paul Rishell, and the aforementioned Johnny Rawls. Rawls brought Keller to Catfood, and Catfood brought Keller to Texas, and Keller is bringing us all some well-executed blues.
“It’s All In Your Eyes” makes me think of Robben Ford, with its silky-smooth jazz groove, and woven guitar licks. Good songwriting here. I loved the pregnant pause in the opening track, “Don’t Let Them Take Your Joy” – it was perfectly performed, duping you into believing the song is over, but it’s not, with a slight tip of the cap to an old R&B reprise-type ending. Very hip.
McGhee’s Cropper-like guitar magic with just the right amount of horns can be found on “Kiss Me Like You Miss Me.” Not to be glossed over is a smoldering, sticky cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Baby, I Love You.” There’s more top-level melodic guitar on the final track on the album, “Ain’t Givin’ In.” Strong performances are found throughout.
If you’re looking for more soul in your diet (and shouldn’t we all be?), Dave Keller’s new album “Every Soul’s A Star” is worth checking out. It is nominated for Soul Album of the Year at the 2019 Blues Music Awards to be held in Memphis on May 9. Go listen to some Johnny Rawls too, for good measure, while you’re at it. Soul for the soul.
— Jon Siembieda
- Dave Keller
‘Every Soul’s A Star’
Release: Sept. 10, 2018
Label: Catfood Records
Producer: Jim Gaines