Keller Williams knew he wanted some help to perform a tribute to the late, great Tom Petty, so he recruited bluegrass wunderkinds The HillBenders to rework and jam the classic rocker’s material at the Suwannee Roots Revival last Friday night. The love for the late Petty is strong in his former home state, and it was powerful to see and feel all the deep, personal connections within the crowd each song.

The HillBenders answered Keller’s siren call from their home base in Springfield, Missouri. Their experiences covering and touring a cover production of The Who‘s Tommy showed that they were more than capable of handling well-known material with respect and daring at the same time. For his part, multi-instrumental virtuoso Keller Williams was, as always, right where he wanted to be.

Long past the point of ever accepting that he has to do something, stylistically, Williams has blazed a path of originality that saw even his cover projects become collections of reworked-from-the-ground-up material. Watching the band of musicians solve the musical challenges of Petty’s layered and dense sound made the performance all the more enjoyable. Seeing a dobro and a banjo toyed with and tweaked to delightful results refreshed this well-worn material, giving the classic numbers new life and vitality.

Ever the smiling troubadour Williams brought just a smidge of his own trademark silliness to the proceedings, and the crowd responded to every display of irreverence with a laugh or a cheer. There was no malevolence or disrespect in any of the show, just top notch musicians honoring and sharing the songs and sound of a legend gone far too soon. After the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park‘s narrowly dodged the worst aspects of the nearby path of destruction caused by Hurricane Michael, the crowd seemed happy to be out of the house, safe and dry under the moon and stars.

Check out these exclusive clips from our own Rex-A-Vision featuring highlights from the show and keep an eye out for more highlights to come!

“You Got Lucky” > “Wildflowers” > “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” > “American Girl”


“Listen To Her Heart” > “Here Comes My Girl”


“The Waiting Is The Hardest Part”