Album Reviews

Dave Keyes

The Healing

Artist:     Dave Keyes

Album:     The Healing

Label:     Keyesland

Release Date:     10.16.2017


Chances are that if you live anywhere in the Northeast, you’ve seen Dave Keyes behind a keyboard in a blues band. The in-demand sideman performs regularly with Popa Chubby, Slam Allen, Ronnie Spector and Alexis P. Suter and often shows up in gigs where you might not even expect to see him. Notably, Dave played with David Johansen and the late Odetta, too. As the above names would suggest, this album, under his own name, is a diverse set ranging from rocking boogie-woogies to gospel to R&B to contemporary blues.

Dave’s last album, Right Here Right Now, earned him a 2014 Blues Music Award nomination for Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year. Here, Keyes plays piano, B3, Wurlitzer and sings lead passionately across his nine originals and two covers. Keyes regularly shares the stage with many of the accompanying musicians; Popa Chubby and Arthur Neilson (from Shemekia Copeland’s band) are the lead guitarists on five tracks each. Alexis P. Suter and her bandmates Vicki Bell and Ray Grappone, from the Ministers of Sound, provide the background vocals, while Dave’s long-time drummer Frank Pagano and bassist David J. Keyes (no relation) handle most of the rhythm, and master Rob Paparozzi adds his harp to several tunes. If that isn’t enough stamps of approval, Vaneese Thomas duets on “Ain’t Looking for Love” and the 30-piece Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir round out Dave’s penned gospel tune “Faith Grace Love and Forgiveness.”

Besides those tunes, highlights include his cover of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s rollicking “Strange Things Happening,” as he trades verses in call-and-response with the Ministers of Sound while Neilson and leader Keyes both soar on their solos. Because Keyes played with Marie Knight, Tharpe’s singing partner, he consciously includes a Tharpe tune on each of his albums. “Come to Me” was co-written with Chubby who provides a signature guitar solo. Keyes’ cover of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” is at times unrecognizable, probably because the tune is usually associated with guitarists. His rendering, with pounding piano and Chubby’s axe, is as vibrant as any. “Dance in the Dark” has some Stax-like riffs and features Dave on B3. The closer, “Box of Blues,” is a Christmas tune featuring a glorious horn arrangement and colorful harp from Paparozzi.

Keyes takes his inspiration from the late Leon Russell, who was not only an early influence, but a great Keyes opened for later on. Like Russell, Keyes has a broad palette and he reaches deep. Energy just pours from this album.

—Jim Hynes

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