More than a decade ago, when a Front Range Dead Head saw a then new group named Elephant Revival at the seminal Boulder band incubator The Mountain Sun, he was floored. Mark Keller instantly was drawn to their music, the same way he had been to The Dead, back in college. Work ended up taking Keller away from Colorado for a while, and when the band toured through his adopted Bay Area locale, he solidified a friendship that had begun at those early Elephant performances, and he began toying with the idea of a solo album. When he finally moved back to Colorado and shared some of his new songs with Elephant’s Daniel Rodriguez, the guitarist told Keller that if we wrote enough songs for an album, he’d be happy to produce it.
Keller’s flame for Gather The Wind was officially lit and over the next several years he would throw copious amounts of fuel on that fire by including a bevy of guest artists, including a great deal of Elephant Revival’s members.
With Rodriguez behind the board for production, Keller brought in Elephant players Dango Rose, Sage Cook and Bonnie Paine. Then he connected with Tim Carbone and John Skehan of Railroad Earth and had them contribute and he flushed out the star-studded cast with Garret Sayers of The Motet and go-to Colorado drummer Brian McRae. His final ace up his sleeve was Robben Ford, who has played with everyone from Mile Davis to George Harrison to Phil Lesh.
The result of this who’s who recording is Keller’s debut album Gather The Wind, which, not shockingly features some incendiary musicianship throughout. What appears on the surface as a straight-forward singer/songwriter recording continually produces “wow moments” as the guests come in and out to add their contributions. From Carbone’s insanely rich fiddle parts, to Ford’s magical finger work, particularly on “Traveler’s Waltz,” to Sage Cook’s banjo work on “Blue Tapestry,” Keller has managed to recapture what it was that he lost when Jerry Garcia passed and the Grateful Dead stopped touring.
Keller said that as a Dead Head he was on a continual search for the “palpable magic that I experienced with the crowd and the band as they attempted to rekindle an ancient fire with intentional spontaneity in the living, present moment. Coupled with friendship and travel, I was a ritual seeker of this Dionysian beauty, madness, and musical ecstasy that the Grateful Dead provided. It didn’t always happen, but when it did, I wanted to be right there to experience it with the audience and the band.”
Now, this many years later, Keller has created the space again with Gather The Wind, and this time he is not just a fan watching from the wings, but at the center of it all singing his own tunes.