There’s a lot that makes Keller Williams unique in the music industry.
His percussive and blisteringly-paced guitar style is rare if not singular — the only technique that a discerning ear could perceive as a pre-cursor would be that of iconic folk virtuoso Leo Kottke, an artist Williams recently got to collaborate with on tour.
He can fit into and break any mold, as he has shown with his various projects including his bluegrass collaborations with The Travelin’ McCourys and The Keels, funk outfit More Than A Little, and Grateful Dead-interpreting ensembles Grateful Grass and Grateful Gospel.
But it is Williams’ prowess as a one-man jam band — a label he’s earned by performing solo using multiple instruments and a honed phrase-looping technique — for which he is best known.
Williams will perform at 9 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Chandelier Lobby of F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre. He’ll offer his signature “acoustic dance music,” but instead of taking the stage alone and relying on technology to accompany him, he’ll be joined by frequent collaborator and upright bass player Danton Boller.
Acoustic dance music, or ADM, is Williams’ fusion of folk, rock, funk, jazz and electronica that, he said, was born out of circumstance. His website, kellerwilliams.net, states, “If you need a title to file under, try electro-hippie acoustic downtempo.”
“It started playing in restaurants and coffee shops and people not paying attention to me; therefore I did not pay attention to them,” Williams said. “I created something to entertain myself. Over the years, adding bass and drums increased the danceability — and having an unhealthy fascination with electronic dance music, I created something I’d want to listen to.”
Williams’ creation has resonated with fans on the jam and Americana music circuits, and in recent years, what started as his sole effort expanded into having fellow musicians aboard to realize his concept.
The first evolution was the Keller Williams Trio with Rodney Holmes, who did two stints in Santana, on drums and RatDog co-founder Rob Wasserman on bass. After Wasserman’s death two summers ago, Williams brought in Boller and guitarist Gibb Droll and rebranded the group KWahtro.
“(I’m) filling in the extension of my solo project with musicians who are far above and beyond my ability,” Williams said. “It’s kind of like cheating.”
In January, Williams released two albums: “Sync,” with KWahtro, and “Raw,” on his own.
“Sync,” he said, came about after KWahtro toured the country a few times and felt good about making a record together.
“With everyone’s schedules and technology, everyone does recording on their own time,” Williams said, explaining each member laid down tracks at private or home studios.
“We mixed them together, and because we performed them for so long, it sounded like four guys in a room playing together,” he said. “It was in sync; therefore ‘Sync’ is the record title.”
“Raw,” Williams explained, started in 2011 as a concept project of 12 different songs on 12 different guitars but was scrapped when Williams wasn’t satisfied with the outcome.
“Skip ahead a couple years, I get to do a co-bill tour with Leo Kottke playing concert halls and art centers, and it’s been agreed no looping gear,” Williams said. “Out of my catalog, I didn’t have anything to represent that, so I went back to that project and pulled some songs.”
Although Williams’ fans have gotten used to seeing him perform with his sampling pedals, he said he’s uncertain he’ll do his “solo looping thing” in Wilkes-Barre.
“I’m fascinated with the upright bass, the acoustic double, big, giant bass,” Williams said. “Someone who is a master of that is Boller. It’s going to be really exciting to do a duo. There are very few venues where I think I can pull this off without any electronics. With Danton, it’s going to be a whole other level. I love that guy’s playing, and it’s so difficult what he does.”
Williams, who plans to release “Sans,” a new album of instrumental music in the early spring, said he enjoys playing in the Northeast, because of the culture and hospitality he’s experienced.
“It’s a great part of the country, steeped in history,” Williams said. “I’m lucky to play these old rooms that have been renovated. They’re all over the place in this area. It’s all about the people and the folks and the stages that have allowed me to come back.”