2018 Austin Blues Society Award Nominee - Best Band
The Live Music Capital of the World has its share of headliners, but every now and then, a collection of sidemen might step out together for kicks. The Keller Brothers, Johnny Bradley, Greg Izor and Willie Pipkin have been doing so for a while now, holding down a Wednesday-night Evangeline Café residency as the Peacemakers. But with the release of their first album, The Peacemakers (Aug. 18, 2017), they’re ready to make some headlines of their own.
All five are recognized around Austin and beyond for their work with a stellar list of artists. Drummer/vocalist Corey Keller and guitarist/vocalist Mike Keller have played with Marcia Ball, Warren Hood, Paul Oscher and the late Gary Primich, as well as fronting their own band, the Keller Brothers. Mike, who produced the album, also worked with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Doyle Bramhall and Double Trouble. Corey played with the late Nick Curran. They also perform with Pipkin in harp player/vocalist Izor’s band, the Box Kickers. And Izor carried on for his hero Sam Myers in Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets. Guitarist Pipkin’s credits also include the South Austin Jug Band, Warren Hood, Emily Gimble, Toni Price, Tameca Jones and the Little Elmore Reed Blues Band (which also featured contributions from Izor and Mike Keller). And bassist Bradley has spent the last several years gallivanting around the globe with Gary Clark Jr. He’s also performed with Funderburgh and Dallas band Mike Morgan & the Crawl.
Together, they recorded live to tape at Austin’s Little Galaxie Studio and Fort Horton Studio, with mixing by the Horton Brothers’ Billy Horton and mastering by Lars Goransson at Sounds Outrageous.
The Peacemakers are credited as a group on two of the album’s 15 tracks: the instrumentals “Sobro” and “Evangeline Shuffle.” The drum-and-harp-driven “Cool Driver” and the Chicago blues-styled “Crazy Fool,” are Mike Keller compositions. Izor penned four tracks, including the shuffle “Lazy Girl” and the gutbucket blues tune, “Your Goose Is Cooked.” The rest were composed and/or made famous by blues greats Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Slim Harpo, Junior Wells, Eddy Clearwater, Big Walter and Robert Johnson — who never actually recorded the song they cover, “Mr. Downchild,” though his stepson, Robert Lockwood Jr., did. On one track, “Real Good Time,” they even pick up on Clearwater’s Chuck Berry influence.
Most of the Peacemakers earned some their blues education at Antone’s, the iconic Austin club where so many famed players got their starts. Their studies included Chicago blues, Delta blues, Louisiana jazz and R&B, and of course, Texas blues. In fact, their mutual love of those sounds led directly to the band’s formation.
“We all had an interest in playing the same kind of music and were all good friends,” explains Mike Keller.
For Bradley, it’s a bit more complex. “Listening to similar records and sharing a love of genres and artists is great,” he says, “but what makes a band grab me is how they respond to each other. Musical or rhythmic response is like a conversation. It’s all about paying attention and matching enthusiasm.”
There’s no question everyone’s paying attention and matching enthusiasm in the Peacemakers. As Pipkin notes, “All the world-class musicians I get to play with every week — it’s just amazing.”