Blues with No B.S.
Blues rambler and guitarist Jim Keller released Heaven Can Wait earlier this week, his third solo album following his departure from the power pop San Fran-based group Tommy Tutone. Keller, who co-wrote what is most likely one of the catchiest songs of both the ’80s and all time, “867-5309/Jenny,” focused on Heaven with a heavy emphasis on songwriting while backing up the album with solid blues guitar based instrumentation. The end result of this process is a well-crafted, thoughtful rock album that sets aside Keller as a fresh new voice in blues music.
Upon a quick listen, it is apparent that Heaven Can Wait has all the necessary pieces to be a good blues album. For starters, Keller’s soulful and emotive baritone range is familiar and inviting from the get-go– that, combined with sensitive lyrics, makes this release seem like an old friend. The mellow instrumentation of his backing band, the aptly named Jim Keller Band, heavily utilizes driving, powerful electric guitars with accents of acoustic guitar and electric organ. This sound is a nearly perfectly fit for Keller’s vox, and standout tracks like “Rescue Me” and “Count the Rain” demonstrate said fusion.
This being said, the elements of pop music that Keller incorporates into Heaven, obviously drawing upon his experience in Tutone, give his blues a more innovative sound. Keller cuts the rambling fat of the genre from Heaven to make his release more accessible and modern. He carefully toes the line in between the classics and a more popular, current sound with Heaven while at the same creating an organic album through a thoughtful songwriting process.
Keller is able to recapture and improve upon the classic sound of a seemingly lost genre on Heaven; there’s no question that the blues are a dying art form in popular music. Keller, however, is the genre’s champion, innovating while remaining close to roots, succeeding on Heaven Can Wait in creating a memorable but new album that is definitely worth a listen.