Album Review: Pick by Keller Williams and The Travelin’ McCourys

Keller Williams digs deeper into his musical repertoire with help from bluegrass specialists The Travelin’ McCourys in his latest studio album Pick. Anyone familiar with Keller’s work knows he isn’t a stranger to exploring different musical avenues. In recent years he’s released a reggae-funk album, a children’s album, and an album of cover songs. His collaboration with Del McCoury’s bluegrass band The Travelin’ McCourys is his 18th album and arguably his most well-rounded studio album throughout his twenty-two year long career. As talented of a musician as Keller is, he absolutely could not have pulled this gem of an album off without the help of the Ronnie McCoury masterfully plucking the mandolin, Jason Carter’s ability to create absolute auditory beauty on the fiddle, and the steady bass play of Alan Bartram.superb banjo play by Rob McCoury,

The album starts off with a Keller Williams original, “Something Else”, and from the get go it is clear his singing has greatly matured over the years. In “Something” his guitar play still offers frantically fun blasts of energy and The McCourys ingeniously keep the music sounding crisp and tight while maintaining an excitable twang. “Mullet Cut” features an excellent blend Keller’s silly songwriting skills, his funky guitar play, and the undeniably refined bluegrass twang of The McCourys.“The Graveyard Shift”, a Steve Earle original, features excellent melodies with mandolin and fiddle beautifully harmonizing with Ronnie McCoury’s excellent vocals. Also, the track features the most notably recognizable upright bass play by Bartram.

“I Am Elvis” features the best mixture of Keller’s silly songwriting skills and The McCoury’s infectiously energetic bluegrass twang. The lyrics to the song go like this: “I like to sail around the world in my mind. I like to snowboard naked in the morning, jump out of a helicopter and freeze my behind. I like to ride upon the space shuttle where there’s no gravity. I like to float around just for fun ‘cause you see space is the place.” “What a Waste” is classic bluegrass through and through. The lyrics touch a wide array of subjects; love loss in the form of death, moonshine, religion, and definitely playful comedy. “I’m Amazed” is easily my favorite song. The My Morning Jacket cover perfectly captures the essence of the song, but I believe it transcends the original. A very special treat comes on the last track of the album, “Bumper Sticker”, which features Del McCoury joining Keller and the rest of The Traveling McCourys. It is an excellent bluegrass fusion track and ends and already fantastic album with a bang. If you even remotely enjoy bluegrass music this album will be a very special treat. After seeing Keller play an amazing set this past fall and hearing his latest album, I’m very excited to see his upcoming show at The Vogue.  

Written by: Alex Toy

Photo by: Aaron Lingenfelter, Wide Aperture Images