Championed by Ronnie Earl, with whom he has played and recorded, Vermont based singer-guitarist Dave Keller brings together a mix of blues and soul on Play For Love (Tastee-Tone Blues). Playing in a blues band covering Otis Rush and B.B. King, he has been mentored by Paul Rishell and Mighty Sam McClain, among others. On this self-produced recording (his 3rd) he is backed by a tight band consisting of Jan Schultz on bass, Brett Hoffman on drums and Ira Friedman on keyboards.
Play For Love was recorded live with some overdubbing and editing of a few tracks. Keller certainly brings plenty to the table as a songwriter, guitarist and singer. On the opening Here I Am, he suggests Otis Rush with his tight guitar playing while a bit of Memphis soul underlies Give It a Rest, with a nice bluesy solo and solid organ from Friedman. The title track is a soulful ballad with lyrics that emphasize that despite one’s problem one has time to love. His playing displays a typical intelligent and restrained development of his solo. This is indicative of the album’s strength, Keller’s understated, yet strong playing, which leads to the consistently satisfying and convincing performances here. The variety of the music is further shown by the folky All Souls Are Built For Flying, where his strumming acoustic guitar is backed solely by Friedman’s organ, along with the closing guitar instrumental Gabriela.”His restrained approach is also matched by his backing band. There are several songs that the addition of a horn or two might have enlivened the performances even more, but the performances stand out as recorded.
This writer would not be surprised to hear some of these songs interpreted by other performers but they will be hard pressed to match Keller’s originals. This is available from cdbaby and is distributed by Burnside Records.
I have edited slightly my original review that appeared is the March 1 - April 15, 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 324). Here is a link to Dave Keller's website.
My review copy was likely provided by a publicist for the recording.