Long past his Gutbucket Blues Band roots, Dave Kellan has found his identity after three solo albums over the course of the past seven years.
Wading chest high somewhere between soul and groove rock, Kellan also likes to dive occasionally into a blues or jazz piece. His new CD, Rounder Than the Sound, proves his adventurous musical nature better than anything he has done in the past.
Not only a magnificent guitarist and vocalist, Kellan is a gifted songwriter as well. With a few re-cuts from the past (Rainy Day, Amy), he's over the brim with fresh musical ideas and unequivocal growth, as the 15 tracks on Rounder showcase.
Anyone knowing the musician is vividly aware that his personality is mirrored in his music and vice-versa. The fun-loving and easy-living ideals that have helped shape his career, speak loud and clear in tracks like Twisted One, where he speaks open-minded about an ex-lover. Lonely Victory is another track near the heart of the record where Kellan is singing eloquently and playing fiercely regarding a lost love.
As a musician that doesn't have difficulty harnessing the finest musicians around, Kellan brings in a few top-shelf players such as national blues legend Larry McCray who plays guitar on two tracks (Rainy Day and Hurdles) and Verve Pipe drummer/vocalist extraordinaire Donny Brown, who offers his stick mastery on Lonely Victory and On My Side.
And while these two artists do indeed add flare and exclamation to Kellan's music, it is the spectacular band Kellan put together that lifts the album into orbit.
Drummer/slide guitarist Matt Burgie in particular gives Kellan a cushion of drumming theatrics that few can match in the Tri-Cities. The main basis of Burgie, bassist Rick Armstrong, percussionist Earl 'The Squirrel' Tiffin, and the horns of Jim Rosborough keep Rounder steady, funky and dynamic.
And the glue behind Kellan's excellent guitar tones is Noel Howland (on keys and backing vocals) who flavors his music like no other. Hearing Howland's key work on Kellan's songs makes for repeated spins in the CD player.
As a vocalist, Kellan hasn't sounded stronger. For the 13 months it took to produce Rounder, between wrestling gigs, acoustic & electric tours, personal travels, record label speculation, the loss of his mother, positive and negative offers, the music business pitfalls, as well as his personal life outside of the sound, his voice has issued a statement of musical confidence and endurance.
His guitar playing continues to be at the top of the heap with a style all his own. As a whole, Rounder comes off with many different 'sides' - sounding almost as if George Benson jammed with Maroon 5 at Robert Cray's birthday party. Kellan's chops are well executed, fitting and oh, so tasteful.
Other outstanding tracks include: Amy, with Burgie's’ excellent slide between Kellan's riffing; Been Thinkin' Of with Armstrong's ultra-grooving bass pushing Kellan into a spectacular chorus and ripping guitar; the title-track, rocking out harder than Kellan's ever produced; and the final track Down in the Delta, finding Kellan back in his blues roots, playing his own brand of juke-joint style groove, rounding out the sounds and colors as never before.
Rounder Than the Sound is worth every cent and proves original music coming out of Mid-Michigan is as strong as it ever has been.