Keller Williams, center, plays a live show at 9 p.m. today at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. His first set he’ll play with bluegrass musicians Larry and Jenny Keel, also pictured. Tickets are $25.

Melissa T. Colombo/Courtesy

Keller Williams, center, plays a live show at 9 p.m. today at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. His first set he’ll play with bluegrass musicians Larry and Jenny Keel, also pictured. Tickets are $25.

Keller Williams returns to Steamboat with the Keels

Williams to play at 9 p.m. today at Sheraton Steamboat Resort

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Past Event

Keller Williams featuring Keller & The Keels

  • Friday, January 14, 2011, 9 p.m.
  • Sheraton Steamboat Resort, 2200 Village Inn Court, Steamboat Spings, CO
  • Not available / $20 - $25

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— At this very moment, Keller Williams knows there are hundreds of fresh-faced young ski bums living in Steamboat Springs, maybe residing in the very houses he called home from 1995 to 1997.

In those years, he was one of them: a youthful, motivated musician who padded around stages in Steamboat and Breckenridge barefoot, looking for somewhere to belong in a town full of energetic transplants.

“There’s an energy to that in itself,” Williams told the Steamboat Pilot & Today in a recent interview. “Young people out of their element in a space that’s becoming their element.”

And although there might not be many ski bums still living here that Williams knew in the mid-1990s, that energy recycles itself with each new crop of the young and young at heart that come to Steamboat.

“That ski bum youthful mentality, it just regenerates,” said Williams, who grew from Rocky Mountain jam favorite to a staple in the national live music scene. “It’s a very special thing.”

Williams will return to the town he once called home for a performance tonight at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. Tickets are $25 at the door, and the show starts at 9 p.m.

Williams plans to play two sets. The first will feature Keller & the Keels, a bluegrass project featuring acoustic musicians Larry and Jenny Keel. The second set will be Williams solo, performing his mellow, self-described “jazz funk techno reggae” with looping effects.

The bluegrass trio released an album of covers this year called “Thief.”

On the album, the trio takes on everything from pop music in Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” to 1990s experimental rock such as “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers, to Kris Kristofferson covers.

Williams claims he never chose the songs that appear on the album.

“They chose me,” he said. “They sneak up on my brain, and I have to, like, record them and play them live to get them out of my brain.”

He said Larry and Jenny Keel, on guitar and upright bass, respectively, are true bluegrass musicians, bringing authenticity to the show. Williams uses a 12-string guitar strung with eight strings to mimic the rhythmic strokes of the mandolin.

“I think bluegrass is a sped-up reggae, when you look at the bass line and the back beat,” he said. “But you need that mandolin chop to kind of finish that bluegrass formula.”

In 2010, Will­iams released another album, propelling him into a new realm of music in his 16-year recording career. His 18th album since 1994’s “Freek,” the new “Kids” album is meant for the car-seat-aged crowd.

“People were telling me my stuff was playful and the kids like it,” Williams said. “The older I get, the more the people that have been listening to me have been having kids and they want to pass it on. It’s the whole longevity of the thing; I guess people are going to continue to make kids.”

Williams is a father of two children, ages 2 and 6. His daughter was 4 when many of the songs were recorded, and her voice can be heard on almost half the songs.

“It’s the closest I’ve come to making something that’ll outlive me,” he said. “That’s the purpose of me writing anything.”

Although the Sheraton show is a 21-and-older event, Williams isn’t opposed to playing a children’s song — or any song — if the audience wants to hear it.

He grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and Phish, who taught him at a young age the unwritten rule of never playing the same song two nights in a row.

But it wouldn’t bother him if he had to play the infamous powder day anthem, “Freshies,” at each of his three Rocky Mountain shows this tour.

“I think I’m an outlaw,” he said. “I’m breaking the jam band rules.

“If people yell it out loud enough, I’ll give it to them.”

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