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Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
After seven years, three albums, innumerable sold out shows, and countless beers, bluegrass mavericks Horseshoes & Hand Grenades appropriately consider themselves a “family” on a wild, wonderful, and often whacky roller coaster. The bond between the quintet—David C. Lynch [harmonica, accordion, spoons, vocals], Collin Mettelka [fiddle, mandolin, vocals], Russell Pedersen [banjo, fiddle, vocals], Adam Greuel [guitar, dobro, vocals], and Samual Odin [bass]—fuels their creativity and chemistry on stage and in the studio.
“Sometimes, it feels like we’re modern day cowboys on some kind of strange journey,” Adam affirms with a laugh. “We’re five friends who set out to do something we enjoy doing, meet interesting people, see old friends, and make some new buddies along the way. Because of that, everything happens organically.”
That’s been the case since these five musicians first met in Stevens Point, WI at college, joined forces, and hit the road post-graduation in 2013. They have ignited stages alongside everyone from Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Trampled By Turtles to Railroad Earth, Merle Haggard, and Marty Stuart in addition to appearances at festivals such as Delfest, High Sierra Music Festival, Blue Ox Music Festival, Northwest String Summit, John Hartford Memorial Festival, and many more. Their three albums—Another Round , This Old Town , and Middle Western —have spawned fan favorite hits, including “Get Down To It,” “Stuck On Your Mind,” and “Whiskey.”
In many ways, everything set the stage for the 2018 offering, The Ode.
“It marks a point of growth,” explains Adam. “We’ve got the bluegrass burner type tunes we’re known for on there, but we’re experimenting with other elements. Little pieces of everybody are encapsulated in this record. For the first time, we were really conscious of allowing our respective musical curiosities into the fold. Sam drops in a jazz and classical feel. Dave brings that Zydeco, Cajun, and old school blues vibe. Collin turns up with this kinda pop folk energy, and Russell gives us the old-timey banjo feel. For me, I’m trying to play out my singer-songwriter curiosities. There are five songwriters in the band, and we’ve gotten better at harnessing our individual creativity and bringing it to the collective.”
The boys found the perfect place to bottle those signature spirits. They retreated to Cannon Falls, MN in order to live and record at Pachyderm Studios — where Nirvana recorded In Utero — for just a week. Joined by Trampled By Turtles frontman Dave Simonett in the producer’s chair, they tracked the eleven numbers that would comprise The Ode over the course of a marathon session.
“Pachyderm is in the middle of nowhere,” he elaborates. “We’re all outdoorsy people, so the setting was super comfortable. It contributed to the laidback approach. We had this awesome chemistry with Dave. It was by far the easiest recording project we’ve done. The whole experience was super positive and uplifting.”
That feeling courses through the upbeat bluegrass gallop of the first single and title track, “The Ode.” The ebullient and enigmatic anthem serves as something of a mantra for the group, “Sing the ode my friend!”
Elsewhere on the record, bluesy piano resounds through “Eat the Cake,” while rustic banjo reverberates during the anthemic “Foggy Halo.” A clever outlier, “Millennial Girl” veers towards self-aware pop with its sharp lyrics. Meanwhile, “Stay Awhile” redefines the breakup song.
“I was thinking about how you can split up with somebody for various reasons, but still be in love,” he elaborates. “You split up for each other—not because of each other. It’s about the impermanence of relationships and the permanence of love.”
Ultimately, the Horseshoes & Hand Grenades family grows stronger by the day. The Ode is proof.
“The best part of this has been building a community,” Adam leaves off. “In this day and age, it’s wise to look for things that bring people together rather than separate them. We’re creating an extended family to get through these times together. That’s the ‘Horseshoe Crew.’ Everything happens because of that bond.”
Keller Williams released his first album in 1994, FREEK, and has since given each of his albums a single
syllable title: BUZZ, SPUN, BREATHE, LOOP, LAUGH, HOME, DANCE, STAGE, GRASS, DREAM,
TWELVE, LIVE, ODD, THIEF, KIDS, BASS, PICK, FUNK, VAPE, SYNC, RAW, SANS and Add, those
who have followed his career will know this. Each title serves as a concise summation of the concept
guiding each project. GRASS, for example, is a bluegrass recording cut with the husband-wife duo The
Keels. STAGE is a live album, and DREAM is the realization of Keller’s wish to collaborate with some of
his musical heroes. THIEF is a set of unexpected cover songs, KIDS offers Keller’s first children’s record,
PICK presents Keller’s collaboration with royal bluegrass family The Travelin’ McCoury’s, and RAW is a
solo acoustic album. Each album showcases Keller’s comprehensive and diverse musical endeavors and
functions to provide another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Keller Williams. Keller’s collaborative and
solo albums reflect his pursuit to create music that sounds like nothing else. Unbeholden to
conventionalism, he seamlessly crosses genre boundaries. The end product is astounding and novel
music that encompasses rock, jazz, funk and bluegrass, and always keeps the audience on their feet.
Since he first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, Williams has defined the term independent artist.
And his recordings tell only half the story. Keller built his reputation initially on his engaging live
performances, no two of which are ever alike. For most of his career he has performed solo. His stage
shows are rooted around Keller singing his compositions and choice cover songs, while accompanying
himself on acoustic guitar. With the use of today’s technology, Keller creates samples on the fly in front
of the audience, a technique called live phrase sampling or looping, with nothing pre-recorded. The end
result often leans toward a hybrid of alternative folk and groovy electronica, a genre Keller jokingly calls
“acoustic dance music” or ADM.”
That approach, Williams explains, was derived from “hours of playing solo with just a guitar and a
microphone, and then wanting to go down different avenues musically. I couldn’t afford humans and
didn’t want to step into the cheesy world of automated sequencers where you hit a button and the whole
band starts to play, then you’ve got to solo along or sing on top of it. I wanted something more organic
yet with a dance groove that I could create myself.”
Williams’ solo live shows—and his ability to improvise to his determinedly quirky tunes despite the
absence of an actual band—quickly became the stuff of legend, and his audience grew exponentially
when word spread about this exciting, unpredictable performer. Once he began releasing recordings,
starting with 1994’s FREEK, Williams was embraced by an even wider community of music fans,
particularly the jam band crowd. While his live gigs have largely been solo affairs, Williams has nearly
always used his albums as a forum for collaborations with fellow musicians. An alliance with The String
Cheese Incident on 1999’s BREATHE marked Williams’ first release on the band’s label SCI Fidelity
Records, DREAM, Keller’s 2007 release, found him in the company of such iconic musicians as the
Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, banjo master Béla Fleck, bass great Victor Wooten, American musician/poet
Michael Franti and many others.
“That album took, from start to release time,” says Williams, “about three years. The object was to get
people that I admire musically to play my stuff, so when I’m old I can crank this album in my pimped-out
golf cart and have something that I’m really proud of. I was going for the historical effect for my own
personal listening pleasure.
“Each record,” he continues, “is a little snapshot of history. I like to think of it as a period piece for an
artist. Each record is a little bit different but all of them have some kind of common thread, which is my
musical ability as far as I can take it. I enjoy making records. In some people’s eyes, they’re a dying
breed, but I’m very passionate about it. They document where my head is at that time in my career and
where I am in my songwriting.”
Williams’ story begins in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C. There he was exposed
to a wide variety of music at an early age, starting with country and bluegrass and working his way up
through hip-hop and go-go, a brand of funk particular to that part of the country. Once he began playing
guitar, Williams’ sphere expanded to what he calls “the post-pseudo-skateboarder punk-rock rebellious
type of thing, Black Flag and Sex Pistols and Ramones, Dead Kennedys, things like that. That slid into
the more melodic college rock, like the Cure and the Cult, the Smiths, R.E.M.’s first five or six records.”
Then came the Grateful Dead, a seminal influence on Williams’ own music. “I studied and learned their
music and went to the shows,” he says, adding that the impact of Jerry Garcia on his attitude toward
music remains incalculable. Another major influence was Michael Hedges, the late virtuoso acoustic
guitarist. “He was really excelling in a whole different world from what I knew,” says Williams.
After relocating to Colorado, further exposure to bluegrass music and progressive acoustic artists such
as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones also had a major impression on Williams. As he began to develop his
own distinctive compositional and performing style, Williams incorporated all of the lessons he’d learned
from the long list of artists who’d found their way into his world, then filtered their music through his own
experiences until something wholly unique emerged. The list of artists whose music he has covered
either in concert or on his recordings constitutes a mind-blowing spread: songs originally performed by
everyone from Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osbourne to Ani DiFranco and old-school rappers the Sugar Hill
When he first started out, Williams played in regional bands but also performed as a solo artist, “me
sitting on a stool playing covers, like a happy hour situation,” he says. “I’d get dinner and maybe tips.
There were bands in high school and in college. But it turned out I could get the same money playing
solo that I was getting with the band. Around that time I was also doing temporary jobs and I was making
the same amount playing music as I was scraping mortar out of the cracks of cinder block walls for eight
hours in the summertime at minimum wage. So it seemed like the obvious choice was to play music. I
started to work and over the years I incorporated more technology. The looping thing started to happen
and tickets were sold and people came to shows, so there wasn’t any reason to fix something that wasn’t
What Williams calls “the looping thing” is actually a big part of what has made him such a compelling live
performer. “Basically, I have these machines that are essentially delay units,” he explains. “What I do is
step on a button and sing or play something. Then I step on the same button in time and it repeats what I
just played or sang. Once that initial loop is created, I can layer on a bass line or a drum line and then
have this layer that I just created in front of an audience that I could sing over and solo over. Nothing is
pre-recorded. Everything is created onstage in front of the audience.”
If it sounds complicated, it is: but the basic thrust is that the technology has allowed Williams to go out on
tour week after week, year after year, and play music by himself—without limiting his sound to what we
most often associate with the solo singer-songwriter: a guy strumming a guitar and singing. With his
arsenal of tech toys, Williams can expand his reach onstage by, in essence, jamming with himself.
As years have gone by and Keller has continued to evolve he has created more and more unique
projects and collaborations with fellow musicians. In 2007 Keller formed a band of his own, Keller
Williams with Moseley, Droll and Sipe which featured Keller on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jeff Sipe
on drums, Keith Moseley on bass and Gibb Droll on lead guitar. After touring throughout 2007 – 2008, they
subsequently released a double live record with a companion DVD. In true Keller Williams fashion, it’s
The summer of 2010 found Keller sharing a bus with two of his biggest heroes, former Grateful Dead
drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, as a member of their powerhouse assemblage the Rhythm
Devils. “That was a very surreal experience,” Williams says. “We rehearsed for a few days and then we
were on a bus with 12 people, two of them being the original drummers from the Grateful Dead.” On that
tour, Williams was put in the enviable position of singing many songs from the Grateful Dead catalog for
audiences that loved every minute of it. Inspired by this experience and his admiration for the Grateful
Dead, Keller added two Grateful Dead projects to his repertoire: Grateful Grass and Grateful Gospel.
With an ever-revolving cast of jam, bluegrass, and gospel musicians, Grateful Grass and Grateful Gospel
have become fan favorites and festival staples. Keller’s Grateful Grass tunes can be heard on two live
digital releases, REX and DOS. Keller’s guests on these recordings include: Jeff Austin (Jeff Austin
Band), Keith Moseley (String Cheese Incident), Michael Kang (String Cheese Incident), Reed Mathis
(Tea Leaf Green), The Keels and many more. Following the Grateful Dead theme, Keller also released
KEYS, a digital only release on which Keller is at the piano singing a collection of Dead tunes. All three
of these releases donate proceeds to the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation.
Williams has also toured as part of a string trio with fellow Virginians, singer/guitarist Larry Keel and his
wife, singer/bassist Jenny Keel, dubbed Keller and the Keels. You can find them hitting key stops on the
bluegrass festival circuit playing songs from their two previous releases GRASS and THIEF, and soon
from their upcoming album, SPEED.
If it seems as if this is a man who never stops, that would be about right. Keller released the amusingly
titled THIEF—his all-covers project with the Keels—early in 2010, and KIDS, his sixteenth album, in the
fall of that same year. A father of two himself, Williams was, of course, inspired by his own offspring but,
he says, some of the songs were written before his children were born. “When Not For Kids Only by
Jerry Garcia and David Grisman came out, I knew that there was hope for me with kids music,” he says.
“I was really attached to that record.” The songwriting for KIDS, Keller says, “was not necessarily singing
to the kids. A lot of it was me singing from the perspective of the kids. That was my plan, to get on their
wavelength, on their level, and be one of them, so it’s kind of like one of their friends singing to them.”
In 2011, BASS found the multi-instrumentalist only playing bass guitar. BASS was also the first album to
be recorded with Keller’s live reggae-funk band Kdubalicious, which in addition to Keller on bass and
vocals, features Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums. On the other end of the spectrum – but
just as tasty – is Keller’s 2012 release PICK. This collaboration featuring Keller Williams with The
Travelin’ McCourys is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts—although the
parts are rather massive on their own, to be sure. “Performing with The Travelin’ McCourys is one of my
favorite things to do in the world,” Keller explains. “This project has struck a special chord with me [pun
intended]. It is very addictive.”
Indeed, Keller always enjoys working with a band. For 2013 he stepped out with a new muse, a 6-piece
funk band dubbed More Than A Little. Williams drew from the Richmond, VA R&B/gospel scene
including a pair of show stealing female singers. FUNK – a sexy live recording that pays deep homage to
the genre’s roots, Keller style – hit the streets in November 2013 and More Than A Little made its way
around the country becoming a festival staple all their own.
Early 2015 found Keller back in the studio working on his 20th release, VAPE. While mainly a solo
endeavor, it does feature a few special guests such as Sampson Grisman, John Kadlecik and a track
with the Travelin’ McCourys. In Keller’s own words “Imagine taking these songs and blowing high
pressured life through them in a low pressured atmosphere. Out comes highly concentrated music that
can be heated up and inhaled through your ears…Vape”.
In 2016, Keller assembled yet another band, Keller Williams’ KWahtro. KWahtro, featuring Gibb Droll,
Danton Boller and Rodney Holmes, toured the country throughout the winter and fall of 2016. The first
KWahtro album, SYNC was released in 2017. According to Keller, SYNC began as acoustic dance music
but with the help of Droll, Boller and Holmes and special guests Mike Dillon and The Accidentals, the
album “morphed into a type of acoustic acid jazz that draws on imagery in both the lyrics and the music.”
As if one album release wasn’t enough, Keller’s first all solo acoustic album, RAW, also released
simultaneously with SYNC in 2017. Keller started working on RAW in 2011 but got sidetracked by a
number of other projects that began to take form. It was when Keller’s 2017 winter tour, Shut the Folk Up
and Listen with Leo Kottke started to take form, that he jumped back into it and completed the album. For
Keller the album and tour represented his roots; all solo acoustic guitar and vocals, no looping, pedals or
Keller’s 2018 release, and first ever entirely-instrumental album, SANS (as in without), found him
breathing new life into some of his favorite songs that were once presented as solo acoustic guitar
pieces, enhancing them with bold acoustic bass and live and sampled drums, looped through futuristic
soundscapes. The follow up, Add (2019), saw Williams simply adding vocals back into both new and
previously unrecorded songs, as well as his own versions of “Brave Captain” by Firehose and Joni
Mitchell’s “All I Want”.
Williams is set to release his 25 th studio album, SPEED, in the Fall of 2019, which sees him reunited with
his Bluegrass outfit, Keller & The Keels, as they reinterpret popular songs by celebrated artists including
The Doors, Kacey Musgraves, Fiona Apple, Weezer and more. SPEED is the trio’s third collaboration
together and features a combination of originals and covers, performed in their trademark psychedelic
Appalachian bluegrass style. Once again showcasing Williams’ masterful penchant for collaboration and
innovation, SPEED proves he’s not planning to slow down any time soon.