Garrison Keillor’s success as a best-selling author, raconteur and longtime host of “A Prairie Home Companion” has tended to overshadow his talent as a vocalist. For Keillor, singing is an extension of storytelling, as he demonstrates on this collection of sixteen songs that mixes selections from the American songbook and originals. Keillor sings in a controlled, conversational style, much like he speaks on his radio show; his vocals convey a sense of warmth.
With backing from Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band (including steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar), Keillor puts a fresh spin on old songs. “My Grandfather’s Clock” starts off with a guitar line that recalls Freewheelin’-era Bob Dylan before building to a jazzy finish. The children’s song is transformed into a meditation on mortality. “Frankie And Johnny” gets a spirited New Orleans workout. Keillor and Becky Schlegel team for a duet on the Irving Berlin standard “What’ll I Do”.
Keillor shows a knack for songwriting with “Old Backstage”, inspired by his radio days. “Only For You”, a mix of singing and recitation, takes a wry look at parenthood. Like Dylan, his fellow Minnesota native and radio host, Keillor knows how to play to his strengths and sustain an audience.