Laugh (SCI)

Keller Williams 

Laugh (SCI)

With Phish "on hiatus" (though the constant buzz of fall tour rumors is starting to resemble a thick swarm of gnats on the third day of a weekend-long run at Deer Creek), the jam-band community has had a chance to grow and diversify. The String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic filled the amphitheater void, while smaller venues have thrown open their doors to artists such as Keller Williams. On Laugh, Williams translates a number of his road-worn originals into a studio setting, trading loop pedals and vocalized horn parts for a full backing band.

Freed temporarily from the burden of performance, Williams concentrates on quirky lyrical constructions, babbling Appetite for apple sauce/Abrasions applaud/An arachnid the acrobat/On the angry, aromatic Arafat. Here, the meanings of the words are less important than the sounds they produce together. In addition to such strings of non sequiturs, there are episodic daydreams such as "Bob Rules," a countrified tall tale about trials and tribulations on the set of The Price Is Right. The jokes wear thin at times, but the music's irresistible force and danceable grooves preserve the album's legitimacy. Like many of his peers, Williams struggles to find the drive and energy that characterize his live performances. But at this point, studio albums from such acts are just postcards to fans, a memento to help them kill time between shows. The understood promise is that these skeletons will be fleshed out somewhere on the road.

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