Jim Keller: Soul Candy

If you like Americana, Soul Candy is a sweet and agreeable slice of sugar-coated confectionary that won’t make your teeth ache.

Jim Keller

Soul Candy

Label: Elisha James Music
US Release Date: 2011-10-11
UK Release Date: Not Available

Jim Keller has made one memorable mark in American pop music. As the co-founder of ‘80s rock band Tommy Tutone, he was responsible for the insanely catchy “867-5309/Jenny”, the world’s only song about falling in love with a girl that you only know from a phone number scratched out on a men’s bathroom stall. While “867-5309/Jenny” can be classified as a novelty song, the sort of thing that does stick in your cranium but is utterly disposable, Keller, who returned to making music last year after a 10-year hiatus, demonstrates on his sophomore solo release Soul Candy that he’s more than just a one-hit wonder from years yore. Throughout the course of the 11 tracks presented here, Keller deftly twists and turns his way through roots-rock stompers, lilting power-pop numbers, soulful ballads and scorching bluesy numbers. While Keller is reaching for stadiums with his big rock sound on Soul Candy, these songs work best in a smoky barroom with a sticky puddle of beer on your table. Longtime Tommy Tutone fans may balk at the fact that there’s no comedy on Soul Candy, but the set is invigorating and finely honed, and it seems that Keller is content in leaving that aspect of his music behind.

There are absolutely no duds on Soul Candy, but the disc does illustrate that Keller has been firmly schooled at the seat of Bruce Springsteen. “Giving It Up to Love” even quotes one of the Boss’s best albums with the lyric: “Darkness on the edge of town / Where the sky is as black as coal." The song “One More Chance” features lurching sax work that sounds very characteristic of the late Clarence Clemons. Elsewhere, Keller comes across as a low-rent John Hiatt with his ability to traverse a variety of divergent styles and make it all stick together. His voice has a bluesy swagger that does recall Hiatt a little as well. So while Soul Candy isn’t exactly the sort of thing that will light the world on fire with its soaring innovation, it is a well-rendered collection of songs in the best roots-rock tradition, following the likes of your Pettys and Mellencamps. Keller puts the heart in heartland rock with Soul Candy, eschewing the silliness of years gone by with a profound sense of maturity. His sound might be a little tired and well-worn, coming so far after the better-known progenitors of this style of music, but if you like Americana, Soul Candy is a sweet and agreeable slice of sugar-coated confectionary that won’t make your teeth ache.






'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.