Friday, January 18, 2013

Keyes' roots run deep

James Keyes (Photo by Ted Theodore)

James Keyes came to the mountain in September, playing two sets of earthy folk-blues at the Wachusett MusicFest. A few weeks later he was bashing away on electric guitar with the Numbskulls, the punk band that predates his solo efforts.

And while it may seem these two projects are vastly different, Keyes makes you realize just how closely related folk and punk are; related at least when someone like Keyes can burrow into the raw honesty punk and folk can supply a musician. And whether playing punk or folk, Keyes performs like he is shrinking the distance between artist and audience, and forming a common ground

If you missed the MusicFest appearance, the solo Keyes is back at the Wah on Monday playing an afternoon set in the Coppertop starting at 3. With a store of tunes by Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and the like plus a batch of originals, Keyes' performances dig into the good and bad of the here and now, even when sounding like he's pulling from the past.
Catch Keyes while you can, as this guy has rambling on the mind. Keyes says he wants to stretch his touring out to Chicago and Texas. A successful road trip last year led to a lot of connections with other roots-music musicians and helped Keyes curate the Bloody Roots music festival in Worcester last fall.

Keyes is also working on “Yankee Peddler,” his third solo album, with producer Mark Thayer, who has done good things with Chris Smither and Eilen Jewel. “Yankee Peddler” will also feature drummer Duncan Arsenault and bass player Jeff Burch, and while more rocking than previous albums, will not, in Keyes words, reach the Numbskulls’ level of sonic assault.

But Keyes does not need to be loud to be heard.

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