I am familiar with Dave Keyes from his work as a sideman behind the likes of Slam Allen, Alexis Suter and a Johnny Copeland tribute than as a leader. This is apparently his 6th album and a good one indeed. He is backed by Frank Pagano on drums (with Steve Rushton on some tracks) and bassist David J. Keyes with guests guitarists Popa Chubby and Arthur Neilson, singers Vaneese Thomas and Alexis Suter, and harmonica player Rob Paparozzi. Keyes penned 9 originals along with two covers on a program that includes soul-drenched rock, blues and boogie with some gospel touches.
What immediately struck this listener was the level of Keyes' vocals. I knew he had serious keyboard chops, but the quality, diction, dynamics, and authoritativeness of his vocals was a very pleasant surprise. This can be heard on his very intriguing reworking of Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues," and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Strange Things Happening," both of which he places a personal stamp on. It is also true of his originals including his duet with Vaneese Thomas on the soulful "Ain't Looking For Love," with its chugging rhythm, nice harmonica from Paparozzi and its refrain of some people looking for love and some just looking for sex. Suter and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir provide vocal backing on the gospel-tinged "Faith Grace Love And Forgiveness," another performance which illustrates the honesty and conviction Keyes invests his singing with.
Keyes instrumentally is solid throughout whether as part of the rhythm section or playing rollicking solo boogie woogie on "Boogie For Stefan." Furthermore, his songs have memorable lyrics and are well played by the studio band resulting in this terrific recording. After listening to this, I would love to see Dave Keyes as a leader, not simply a sideman.
I received my review copy from Dave Keyes. Here Dave is performing "Blues For Stefan."