Dave Keller is one of the finest soul and blues men of his generation. His new album Soul Changes has been nominated for a Blues Music Award (BMA) for Best Soul/Blues CD of 2013. The BMAs are the Grammys of the blues world. He is the 2012 winner of the Best Self-Produced CD of the Year Award at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. That CD, "Where I'm Coming From", reached #2 on Sirius/XM Radio's blues channel in May 2012. About.com recently said, "Dave Keller is gonna be huge!", and it's starting to seem that way.
After being discovered by legendary guitarist Ronnie Earl, Keller appeared as a singer and co-writer on Earl's BMA-nominated CD, "Living In the Light". Next, blues and soul fans got to hear Keller with his own band on his all-original critically-acclaimed release "Play for Love". In Sept. 2011 Keller released "Where I'm Coming From", an album of deep soul songs recorded with The Revelations, one of the hottest soul bands on the scene today. Produced by Bob Perry (Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, Brian McNight, Foxy Brown), it has earned accolades from Blues Revue, Downbeat, Vintage Guitar, and many other highly-regarded publications.
Since the release of his latest CD, Keller has performed at some of the most respected blues festivals in the Northeast, including the North Atlantic Blues Fest (New England's largest). He and his band have been building a fiercely loyal fanbase at top venues in New York City (Southpaw, Hill Country BBQ), Boston (Johnny D's, the Beehive, Brighton Music Hall), RI (Chan's), CT (Black-Eyed Sally's, Bridge St. Live), and NH (Tupelo Music Hall, Strange Brew). Summer 2013 is already shaping up to be Keller's busiest summer yet.
Far from an overnight success, Keller has paid his dues the old fashioned way: performing at hundreds of venues, and giving every show his all, for over 20 years. At sweaty, dirt road bars. At huge summer festivals. At jam-packed dance clubs, city halls, college theaters, prison gymnasiums, and blues cruises. You name it. Chances are Keller has played there. And chances are those audiences still remember dancing like crazy to his deep soul singing, his gritty guitar licks, and his super-tight, super-funky band.
When Keller moved to the Green Mountain state (that's Vermont, y'all) in 1993, he had already spent many years learning his trade. Growing up in Worcester, MA, he picked up guitar in his teens, before falling for the blues and starting his own band in 1988, covering songs by B.B. King, Otis Rush, and the Neville Brothers. Soon after, Keller moved to Boston. Weekend nights found him backing up Reggie Taylor, an older blues/R&B musician who himself had backed up many a blues legend. Weekdays Keller hung out with acoustic blues master Paul Rishell, learning the roots of the blues. Weekend afternoons Keller put his skills to use, sitting in at blues jams throughout the city.
Eventually Keller tired of city life and moved to rural Washington state. There he decided to take up singing and songwriting. With few other blues musicians around, he immersed himself in homemade tapes of Ray Charles, Son House, and gospel quartets from the forties and fifties.
By 1993, when Keller moved to Vermont, his singing and playing had taken on a new depth. He began playing solo shows with his National steel guitar, garnered a loyal following, and released a cassette of acoustic blues originals and covers (Deep Down in My Soul). By 1996, Keller had put together a band, and began touring throughout the northeast. Since then, he has released three all-original CDs on his own label, Tastee-Tone Records: Faith (1998), Down at the Aloha (2001), and Play for Love (2009). Where I'm Coming From (2011) is Keller's latest and finest work to date.
Along the way, Keller has garnered excellent reviews from the U.S. blues magazines and bloggers, received airplay on over 200 radio stations (making it to #8 on Roots Music Report's blues chart), and picked up accolades from fellow musicians including deep soul legend Mighty Sam McClain, who isn't shy about telling the world, "Y'all check him out! He's for REAL!"
Keller keeps up a heavy performance schedule, touring with The Dave Keller Band: Ira Friedman on Hammond organ, Brett Hoffman on drums, and Gary Lotspeich on bass. He has also had the honor of backing up soul and blues greats including: Fontella Bass, Robert Ward, Ronnie Earl, Big Jack Johnson, and Johnny Rawls (2010 BMA Soul Blues Recording of the Year). He also recently performed on soul revues with classic soul men Otis Clay and Swamp Dogg.
The roots of Left Wing Bourbon go back further than you’d expect for a blues band from West-Central Wisconsin. Weaned from a young age at the famous River’s Edge blues jams of the mid-to-late 1990s, along the banks of the Chippewa River, every member of the group was playing alongside blues veterans while young and unformed enough to take the impressions to heart.
While the blues jam venues may have changed over time, the members that would go on to form the core of Left Wing Bourbon continued to cut their collective teeth in various incarnations throughout the Chippewa Valley and south to the banks of the Mississippi. Officially formed in 2007, Left Wing Bourbon is a confluence of regional musical streams—some of which have run together for years, others just mixing.
Seasoned with years of hosting and playing at blues jams, serenading the night from some country porch, or moving the masses to swing their bodies at a summer festival, the collective members of Left Wing Bourbon mix soul, sweat, boogie and booze into a kinetic cocktail that leaves the foot tapping and the body wanting more.
Faith Ulwelling’s vocals channel 60’s soul and Delta grit, and her brother Jacob Ulwelling caresses the bass guitar until it moans and sings a counterpoint all it’s own. Jason Keisler works the guitar with finger, pick or slide, cascading a catalogue of blues from Clapton-like growls to a Watters mudslide. Tim Caswell, the veteran of the group, brings a sawdust-stage savvy, careening the band from ragtime to Motown and back, always solidifying the core. Derrick Biederman exudes seemingly boundless energy on the drums, and his diverse percussive vocabulary woos the audience to stand to attention, move their hips, and wander to the dance floor.
Left Wing Bourbon plays funk, blues, and feel good. Left Wing Bourbon mixes the season of experience with the zest of youth. Left Wing Bourbon sweats the blues out its skin and moves the room until you have no choice but to join in too. And why not? Funky blues won’t hurt a bit.
Growing up in a small Wisconsin town isn't always limiting as it sounds. An eclectic musician, Bentz totes history with the violin, oboe, saxophone, guitar, and bass. Putting all of this musical knowledge together to start a band for the first time in high school, Bentz's love of music would give him the flexibility to perform in rock, classical, jazz, blues, bluegrass and newgrass bands. When asked for his resume, Bentzs list goes on...
His sound gives credence to this fact the many faces and different genres of music have allowed him to create his own sound: one that blends ideals from many flavors of music into one (kind of like at the ice cream store he managed as a teen). The distinct movement, layering, and syncopation of his style, though intense, is immediately accessible to the listener. Some may say that Tommy Bentz's greatest asset is his confident and mature electric slide guitar style, yet others will argue that his insightful lyrics and adept layering of sound are what keep them coming back to hear him play again and again. Regardless, with three full length albums under his belt - each of them a landmark of musical growth in a coming of age fashion, Tommy Bentz represents a man with spirit, drive, thoughtful journeys, and musical ability that so many musicians strive to achieve.
While reading his lyrics, one gets a snapshot of Bentz's ideals - from the strength he derives from family relationships, to the all-important issue of respect in this changing world. We read and are left with an impression of a man who learns from where he's been, uses the knowledge and presses forward into the unknown with purpose. If lyrics alone drove Bentz's work, he'd have a great product, but no one can discount the musicians technical prowess or his warm timbre and soulful vocals. There's a distinct blend of southern jam style rock and acoustic singer-songwriter flair, with his rounded sound being completed by remnants of his experience in jazz and classical performance.
An ever-ambitious entrepreneur, Tommy owns and operates Brickhouse Music and is married to Broadway performer, Jen Burleigh Bentz and they keep a happy home in River Falls, Wisconsin.