CD Review: Dave Keller's “Right Back Atcha”

Vermont R&B/soul/blues artist, Dave Keller, releases a new full-length CD titled Right Back Atcha, the follow up to his critically-acclaimed 2013 release Soul Changes. The new disc, which offers 11 original tracks plus one cover song, also features Dave's long-time touring band (plus a few other guests) accompanying him in the studio for essentially, the first time in a decade.


Review by Joe Milliken

Created over a 10-month period and recorded at Lane Gibson Recording and Mastering in Charlotte, Vermont, Right Back Atcha runs a gamut of styles and emotions throughout the proceedings, beginning with the opening track, a cover of soul-man Willie Clayton's “It's Time You Made Up Your Mind.” Originally written by soul songwriter greats Darryl Carter, Earl Randle and Don Bryant, this is a horn-infused R&B gem that certainly sets the table nicely for Keller's soulful originals.

“2 AM Talks” is a song full of emotion, all grooving horns and a biting guitar solo, followed by the title track, “Right Back Atcha,” with its punctuating horn stabs, walking bass lines and more tasty guitar from Mr. Keller. Then, the song “Deeper Than The Eye Can See” just grabs you, a passionate ballad reminiscent of a classic-70's Van Morrison offering.

With “Forever Summer” Keller reaches deep, capturing heart-felt lyrical imagery of those endless summer days with the love of your life... complete with acoustic guitar strums and Ira Friedman's elegantly placed, Hammond B-3 organ flourishes. This is a perfect set up for “Slow Train,” a jazzier, horn-infused R&B groove with a fantastic sax solo and cleverly laid-back lyrics. (“C'mon baby, we don't need no jet airliner... (let's take a slow train)...we don't need no Mercedes Benz.”)

Next up is “Circles,” a B-3-drenched ballad again showcasing Dave's soulful voice, an emotional guitar solo and a killer B-3 solo which evokes feelings that emerge through the trials and tribulations of a confused relationship. This is followed by the more easy-going “She's Just Katie,” a playful celebration (“She ain't complicated, she's just Katie.”) of loving your lady, featuring the beautiful and delicate backing vocal-tandem of Morgan Klarich and April Caspari.

The pace then picks up with “Urgent (I'll Give It All),” featuring upbeat grooves and a slinky-cool guitar solo, “Urgent” is one of those testifying songs that felt too short... as in, I didn't want it to stop! I predict that this one turns into a burner in the band's live set. And speaking of burner, as for me, the rocker of the bunch feels like “What's It Gonna Take?”... with a straight-line rhythm underlining a floating B-3 groove that ultimately hits home with a soaring guitar solo and soulful closing vocal-take.

“Willing To Learn” is a pretty ballad reminiscent to this listener, of the late-great Canadian guitarist Jeff Healy, complete with just a smooth-cool sax solo that fits perfectly. The closing track, titled “You Make It Easy” is simply just another joyful example of Dave and his mates sitting in the R&B pocket of bliss, plain and simple. Just groovin' along with smiles, style and grace.

I gotta tell ya folks, this is one of the coolest CDs (local or otherwise) that I've heard in a while, as Keller and company seemingly create some Vermont version of Van Morrison-meets-Robert Cray-meets-Jeff Healy that is not contrived and in fact, the various musicians featured here absolutely flourish as to create their own unique statement through Keller's true-and-easy song writing.

Friedman is masterful on the aforementioned Hammond B-3, the rhythm section (Brett Hoffman on drums, bassist Gary Lotspeich) is tight with strong and distinctive bass lines, the solos of The Mo' Sax Horns (Joe Moore, Jessica Friedman and Terry Youk) fit in effortlessly and the backing vocals (the aforementioned Klarich and Caspari) and string arrangements (Michael Close and Paul Reynolds) are simply wonderful accents throughout.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Keller and company certainly (to steal a lyric from Dave) “make it easy” to love this collection of groovy, soulful, laid-back R&B originals that seemingly feel perfect for those Sunday mornings, sitting with a cup of coffee and the ensuing sunshine. In other words, I highly recommend giving it a listen.

To learn more about Dave Keller, his band and the new CD Right Back Atcha, please visit www.davekeller.com. Also check out SRO's recent Dave Keller cover story, here: http://standing-room-only.info/feature/joe-milliken/vermont-blues-and-so...