Recensie: Jim Keller – By No Means

 

Jim Keller - By No Means

Jim Keller – By No Means
Format: CD – Digital / Label: Continental Record Services
Release: 2021
Tekst: Fons Delemarre

https://smarturl.it/JKBNM

Elf liedjes, eigenlijk meer muzikale miniatuurtjes -het kortste 2’03”, het langste 3’40”- presenteert Jim Keller op zijn nieuwe album ‘By No Means’.

Keller, opererend vanuit New York, heeft ze zorgvuldig en subtiel in elkaar gesleuteld. ‘Ingetogen’, ‘subtiel’ en ‘sfeervol’ zijn de begrippen die als eerste opdoemen bij beluistering van ‘By No Means’. Hier wordt muziek gemaakt door een doorgewinterde muzikant, die het metier tot in de finesses beheerst.

Zelfs Wild Love klinkt niet wild, maar wel overtuigend. ‘Wild’ blijkt op verschillende manieren ingekleurd te kunnen worden.

Maria Come Home is meer spraakzang dan zang. Keller’s stem benadert op deze track de donkerte van die van Leonard Cohen. Prachtig, zeker in combinatie met de -wederom- minimalistische instrumentatie. Keller verheft het adagium ‘Minder Is Meer’ haast tot kunst.

Dat is des te opvallender, omdat Mitchell Froom meedoet en deels de productie voor zijn rekening neemt. Froom is een gerenommeerde producer: Los Lobos’ Kiko’ is een sfeervol meesterwerk, evenals99.9Fº’ van Suzanne Vega. Andere Froom-producties bezwijken haast onder al zijn klankkleurtoevoegingen, want Froom is een producer die veel aan de muziek kan toevoegen. Soms te veel. Des te opvallender is dus de klank van ‘By No Means’.

De muziek van Keller heeft eenzelfde soort ‘basic vibe’ als die van Canadees Ray Bonneville, een muzikant uit de ‘school’ van muzikant/producer Steve Dawson.

Sober, zorgvuldig uitgebeend, zonder fratsen, kalm. Onderkoeld, misschien zelfs wel. Keller’s zang is wat minder soepel en geolied dan die van Bonneville en heeft hier en daar een randje dat doet denken aan Chuck E. Weiss en -vooruit- Tom Waits in een contemplatieve bui.

Overtuigend zijn de miniatuurtjes van Keller zeker. Ook JJ Cale zal vanuit de wereld waar hij nu zit, ingetogen meeknikkend de nummers van ‘By No Means’ tot zich laten komen.

Tracks:
01. Easy Rider
02. Laying on the Tracks
03. I Don’t Want to Fight Anymore
04. Mistakes
05. Find My Shadow
06. Maria Come Home
07. Don’t Get Me Started
08. Pretending
09. Love on the Line
10. Wild Love
11. Done Walking the Line

Album Credits ‘By No Means’
Jim Keller – Acoustic guitar and vocals
David Hidalgo – Guitars. Background vocals on ‘Find My Shadow’
Bob Glaub – Bass
Michael Urbano – Drums and percussion
Mitchell Froom – Keyboards and other stuff…
Vonda Shepard – Background vocals on ‘Wild Love’
Produced by Mitchell Froom and David Boucher
Recorded and mixed by David Boucher
Recorded in Mitchell’s back yard

Jim Keller heeft bij (bijna) alle tracks een korte toelichting geschreven bij vrijwel alle nummers.

01. Easy Rider
I
n the mid 70’s I traded a Kenwood turntable for a 64 Chrysler Valiant convertible with a Hurst shifter. I had a used Pioneer cassette player and 2 Auratone speakers strapped to the back seat with gaffer’s tape. The lid leaked so there was always something growing on the floor in the back. I thought about growing a lawn back there, but never got around to it. I used to take road trips around California, often in the winter, when I’d drive with the top down and the heat cranked up. Last trip was to Bakersfield to play a club, but I broke down in Lost Hills. Hitched a tow from a local guy to a garage where I sold it for $35.00.  Enough to pay for a ride to the gig. Missed sound check, made the gig.    

I’ve used the memories of those days in bits of many songs. Young, broke…life was good.

Easy Rider was a song and track that came together very quickly. I wrote it in a hotel in downtown LA while Mitchell and I were doing pre-production on the record. I didn’t really think it was much of anything, but when Mitchell got hold of it, it took shape right away.  On the recording, from Michael Urbano’s first snare hit, and Bob Glaub’s funky fuzzed out bass part, the track takes off. The interplay between Mitchell’s keyboard hook and David Hidalgo guitar part fell into place on the first run through.  Very subtle but kind of mesmerizing.  Simple ain’t easy, accept sometimes…. when it actually is.

02. Laying on the Tracks
In the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I took a road trip to a small town outside of Albany Georgia – the birthplace of Ray Charles. I ended up spending two  weeks down there picking okra, which -if you don’t know- is like picking fiberglass insulation. It gets all over you and itches like crazy, and you can’t wash it off. There was a picker there that would take a 6-pack of beer at the end of the day and lay on the train tracks and drink his beer, just for the hell of it. He was crazy. I think he just wanted to freak people out, which he did. I always wondered what happened to him.  I left before I could find out.

03. I Don’t Want to Fight Anymore

04. Mistakes
This track was such a joy to record. The groove so deep and rich, thanks to Bob Glaub’s hooky bass part and Michael Urbano’s groove. You can drive a truck on it, play it all day and not get bored or lose your joy. You can hear Mitchell playing his weird shit in the background, giving the track a kind of voodoo thing. Hidalgo’s simple solo section is beautifully understated. Guilt, one of my favorite song topics. A never-ending flow of material coming from that river.

05. Find My Shadow
I wrote this song with Billy Harvey. A Texas boy who spent a few years living in Brooklyn. Long enough for us to write a handful of songs together. The soul of the lyric comes from a feeling of being out of place.

The track is so simple.  It’s mostly just me and my acoustic guitar. David Hidalgo wrapped a dollar bill around the neck of his guitar and just strummed a rhythm percussion part. There are barely audible hand claps and a few notes that are actually the top of my guitar hitting the buttons on my shirt that create a perfect G note. Right in tune.

What I love about the song is the melody is upbeat and happy, like a Roger Miller tune, but the lyrics are really about being lost.

06. Maria Come Home
I wrote this song about some dear friends I knew in San Francisco in the 70’s. He drank, she drank, they would fight, badly. Break up, remorse, she’d take him back, repeat. They were both so in love but it was tragic. Heartbreaking to watch. Mitchell chopped off the 3rd verse… It was not a happy ending.

07. Don’t Get Me Started
A friend of mine was having a particularly rough time during the lockdown in Spring 2020. I wrote Don’t Get Me Started based on what he was dealing with. I recorded a version of it on my iPhone and sent it Mitchell Froom. The next day he sent back this fully produced track, which I love. Although it was written about what one friend was experiencing, it’s what so many of us are feeling right now, whether we’re stuck at home, an essential worker or on the front lines.

08. Pretending
I am a big Ricky Nelson fan. He made great records, wrote great songs and had a beautiful simple sweet voice and yet he was so underrated. He died on New Year’s Eve 1986 in a plane crash flying from Alabama to Texas for a gig. This one is for Ricky.

09. Love on the Line
This started with a funky retro drum machine loop that Mitchell had up on the board one morning when I arrived at the studio. Kind of a JJ Cale vibe. We wrote the song, finished it in a couple of hours and recorded it when the band showed up that afternoon. I wish they were all that easy.

10. Wild Love
Wild Love had been around for a while in various forms but it never really worked for me. I loved the hook but the arrangements always seemed forced. One morning in a hotel in LA I picked up a guitar and just started playing this groove and singing the song, mumbling my way through with no thought of structure or existing arrangement. This is what came out. It happens that way sometimes where the song takes the lead and you just follow it. 

Mitchell and I then used that exact mumbled version as a road map and built this track around it. I love the groove and simple parts that Bob, David, Michael and Mitchell locked in on from the first take. Mitchell brought Vonda Shepard in for the background vocals. She copped the vibe instantly.  Such a great singer.

11. Done Walking the Line
Right, the flip side of Walking the Line.  I got to use a few lines in this song that I’ve always wanted. “Get up every morning and have coffee and pie”. I’ve tried that in more than a few songs over the years. And “Pushed the hook right through and cut off the barb. I can live with the pain and I’m diggin the scar”. Makes me smile… and wince.

Website: Jim Keller

Hits: 18