Posts Tagged ‘backwoods’

LKNB Photo by Vikas Nambiar

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge have a fun weekend in store with shows in Atlanta, Savannah and Greenville, SC! They start off on Thursday, March 3rd in Atlanta at the Red Light Cafe. Friday’s show is at the Live Wire Music Hall in Savannah, GA and they head n over to Greenville, SC for a show at Gottrocks on Saturday, March 5th!

Jenny Keel will be doing a LIVE radio interview TONIGHT (Wed, March 2nd) on Radio Free Georgia WRFG 89.3 FM at 8:45pm EST. Listen in online at www.wrfg.org

The Savannah Current writes,

Keel is one of the pre-eminent flat-picking acoustic guitarists in the entire world. Anywhere. He holds his own with the likes of (his good buddy) Tony Rice. And it’s not basic bluegrass, the way Bill Monroe played it – Keel and the band (which includes his wife Jenny on standup bass) also play a jaw-dropping amalgam of gypsy folk and Appalachian instrumental music. This is acoustic music, pure and performed with intensity and flying-finger verisimilitude.

One more thing: The Virginia-bred Keel devotes half of his official website to fishing news and tips (that’s his other passion). He ain’t a sweet-singing vocalist like Ricky Skaggs or Vince Gill – he’s got a gravelly, weathered voice that lets you know, right from the get-go, that between that and the fishing, the flatpicking and the mountain-man beard, he’s the real deal.

~ written by Bill DeYoung

The Hartford Examiner states, “Flatpicking Guitar master Larry Keel is a dedicated force in preserving and creating American Mountain Music. Delivering powerful and honest performances, Keel and his four-piece bluegrass band Natural Bridge are a breath of fresh air in the traditional bluegrass market of today.”

Also check out the writeups in Connect Savannah and GoUpstate.com!

Jenny Keel did a wonderful interview with Sarah Morgan, the Atlanta Jamband Examiner. Here are some excerpts:

Pickin’ and grinnin’ doesn’t get more descriptive than with Larry Keel & Natural Bridge. Larry Keel may be a guitar master but his “backup” band isn’t subpar. The Natural Bridge includes Mark Schimick tearing up the mandolin, Will Lee going to town on a 5 string banjo, and Jenny Keel beating down the bass. The bluegrass maestros are playing this Thursday night at Red Light Café. A trip to Atlanta is a trip home for Jenny Keel.

Growing up in Atlanta, Keel says she listened to more classic rock, southern rock and jazz than bluegrass. It wouldn’t be until she moved to Virginia to attend college that she was fully exposed to the genre.

“When I got up here, with the snap of your fingers you could sit in or check out any old time jam, Keel says.”You could take walks and there’s always something going on. That’s how I met Larry. I went to see one of my buddies picking. Low and behold there’s Larry on stage with him, and I was “who are you – in my town? Why don’t I know you?” Yeah I stalked him right from there.”

. . .   . . .    . . .

Larry and Jenny Keel. Photo by Bright Life Photography.

While Keel says being able to play together helps with the grind of the road, she had to learn how to play first.

“It solves the problem of homesickness and yearning to be back home with the family unit,” Keel says. “We’re our own family unit, together 24/7, and we wanted it that way from the beginning, when we met and fell in love.

. . .   . . .    . . .

Larry put her to the test during her lessons.

“He said ‘OK, you’ve been messing around with the bass and everything, it’s time to jump into the fire.’ And that’s what happened. We knew we wanted to be together, that was absolutely the goal however it was going to happen. And turns out, I was able to play in the band with him.”

Those quickly learned bass skills can be easily distinguished on their 2009 album Backwoods. Keel says she would like to learn the banjo and guitar more, but like most people she has to battle time.

“I’m so busy with the touring, and when we do come home it’s just a big circus juggling act of management, business, paperwork, report, not to mention household stuff,” she explains. “I have a home, a cat, have to do laundry, have to get vehicles ready to get back on the road…the old cliché, if I just had more time in the day. Sounds so Western Civilization. The Chinese, that’s not part of their culture, they think they have all the time in the world – and their right. I’m not stressed by it, but yeah, it seems to leave me short for things I want to do.”

One thing that there is always time for is music. Keel says performing is a chance to connect to other people.

“The goal every time is to connect, share the music and be a team…to create the best music possible, the best vibe, and have a great time,” she says. “Be it 2000 strangers in an auditorium or music hall, our goal is to get everyone on the same page through the music, and be comfortable, and fired up… or just transported.  Whatever the emotion of the song calls for, if it’s scary or just wide open, joyous…anywhere, anytime that’s what we’re going for. “

. . .    . . .    . . .

Are you going? Tell me Sarah on Twitter @djsarahspin. Keep up to date on all the latest jam band happenings in Atlanta by hitting the “subscribe” button.

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE on Examiner.com: Larry Keel & Natural Bridge At Red Light Cafe – Atlanta jam bands | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/jam-bands-in-atlanta/larry-keel-natural-bridge-at-red-light-cafe#ixzz1FSuY0Mgx

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ATTENTION: THIS SHOW (Casbah Durham Dec 17th)HAS BEEN CANCELLED due to The Keels being snowed in in Virginia; however, we did want to post the article as an archive for you all to enjoy!

Bluegrass at the Casbah with Keel



Dec. 16–Longtime flatpicking guitar playing bluegrassman Larry Keel thinks just about any song could be turned into a bluegrass song.

“I believe whether a Miles Davis song or a reggae song, the bluegrass sort of creeps in there. Though your hardcore purists might say no,” said Keel in a phone interview from his home in Lexington, Va., on the side of a mountain.

Tonight he’ll be at Casbah in Durham with his band Natural Bridge, which features his wife Jenny Keel on upright bass and Mark Schimick on mandolin. Larry Keel and Natural Bridge is named for the, well, the natural bridge that’s a wonder of nature and tourist stop in southwestern Virginia. Keel lived in the community of Natural Bridge for 15 years before moving to Lexington. The group’s last record was “Backwoods.”

Over the course of Keel’s career, he’s played with several groups — Magraw Gap, the Larry Keel Experience, the Keel Brothers and Keller & the Keels.

Keller & the Keels is composed of Larry and Jenny Keel with Keller Williams . Their latest, out this year, is “Thief.” It’s filled with covers of songs that seem a natural segue to their Americana sound — like the Grateful Dead’s “Mountains of the Moon” — to songs you didn’t know could be bluegrass, like “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers, “Bath of Fire” by Presidents of the USA and “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse.

Larry Keel said that the song choices were Williams’.

“I’m just glad to be a part of it, to put it out there to kids who might not normally hear it,” Keel said. In recent years new bluegrass bands have veered from playing only traditional tunes.

“I sort of look at it as bluegrass has to change to keep it growing. I see younger groups trying to turn their age groups on to bluegrass by playing songs they know in a bluegrass fashion, and therefore preserving bluegrass,” he said.

Keel plays a little bit of all of it — traditional, originals and covers.

“With my style of traditional bluegrass, I do a lot of writing and always try to write something new from something that inspires me — people I meet, all the places I go to,” he said. Fishing, too, is part of the experience.

“It’s a very Zen-like activity, very magical. You’re concentrating on one focused-type thing, and music is like that,” Keel said.

Keel said that as he grows older, he definitely takes his music very seriously, but not too serious.

“I try to keep an audience happy,” he said. “It’s nice to uplift them when they come out to a show, and I get back that good energy.”

Keel has his own youtube channel,http://www.youtube.com/user/Larrykeelmusic. Keel will be back in North Carolina again for a New Year’s Eve show in Charlotte with Keller & the Keels.


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Thorough and fun interview with Larry Keel by NICK HARRAH For The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington. Nick also wrote a great review of Keller & the Keels “Thief” as well. Check out the album review here.

Below are long excerpts from the interview:

The holidays are a time for being thankful, being with family and friends and maybe doing some charity. It’s all these things too for flatpicking guitar master Larry Keel.

Talking over the phone the day before Thanksgiving from the mountains of Southwest Virginia, Keel, like many others this time of year, talked about being home for the holidays; thankfulness, charity and family came up right away.

Talk about progressive-yet-traditional bluegrass, touring with his wife and bassist Jenny Keel, and an insurance policy on his near-iconic beard, also came up.

Keel, with his band, Natural Bridge (Jenny Keel: bass/vocals; Mark Schimick: mandolin/vocals) and the help of his brother, his old friend Will Lee, are playing more than a few charity events over the holiday season.

Supporting causes ranging from a domestic violence shelter, to Toys For Tots, to a no-kill animal shelter benefit at the end of the month with his longtime friend and collaborator, the Fredericksburg, Va.-based “one-man jam band” Keller Williams, for Keel, already established as a kind of bluegrass deity for his fiery pickin’, it’s great to lend his music to great causes.

“It’s wonderful,” Keel said of playing the various benefit shows. “I really want to do as many of those as I can each and every year. It’s just special. I’m just extremely blessed and fortunate to be able take what I do and translate that across to people who are in need this time of year.”

Playing with Williams, whether it’s covering other people’s songs on “Grass” and “Thief,” or having Williams produce Keel’s 2009 record “Backwoods,” or playing some dude’s couch like they did for a contest this year, is always great, Keel said. Learning and playing a few of the 13 cover songs on “Thief” was a fun challenge for Keel.

“He picked out all the tunes and showed us versions of ’em and we got his arrangements down and went out and performed ’em,” he said. “A lot of the songs I’d never heard the original versions of, like (Marcy Playground’s) ‘Sex and Candy.’ We’d go out and play ’em and people would be singing along and I’d be like ‘I guess I’m the odd man out.’ I didn’t even know any of the words,” Keel said laughing. “We just had a great time being spontaneous.”

The most immediate shows were set to be ones with his older brother Gary, and Larry talked about the early influence on him.

“He bought me a guitar when I was 8 years old, and taught me how to play melodies and rhythm guitar and all that,” he said. “After all these years, getting to get back together to play shows with him over the holidays, it’s one of the most special times of the year for me. It’s super special.”

Talking about his exposure to progressive bluegrass and his incorporation of that into his love of traditional bluegrass, Keel explained how it all came together.

“Well, you know, I’ve always loved bluegrass, that’s definitely always been the heart and soul of my music,” he said. “But from an early age I’ve liked all kinds of music. From jazz to reggae to blues and rock and roll, of course. I guess listening to it so much and loving all those different styles, it just kind of crept into my music. Kind of infected it, in a good way, you know?

“I just love every kind of music. Well, most of it. This new country or new rock developed for record sales, it just doesn’t have a heart or a soul.”

Keel and Natural Bridge are joined by Keel’s old friend Will Lee from Keel’s first band, Magraw Gap, formed in the early 90’s.

“Will has come back out on the road with Natural Bridge and will be at the V Club show and at 123 as well,” he said. “We’ve been really excited about that. Will and I have been playing music together for 25 years or more, and there’s a great chemistry there; we read each other really well.”

New music is on tap for Keel and Natural Bridge in 2011, Keel said. The band will be releasing digital downloads of new songs off Keel’s website. And as Keel brings his bluegrass into the digital age, and as the fans change the way the industry works, Keel changes with them.

“It seems like a lot of the bands and the music industry itself has changed so much, just in the last five years,” he said. “People aren’t buying CDs like they used to; people all have iPods or a computer and can pick their favorite four songs off a record for 99 cents apiece. So we’re getting on that train. On my website we’ll have a whole page dedicated to 99 cent downloads where I’ll be releasing a new song every 30 days or so. So we can take our time with, produce correctly and release the real version we want to release, so we can have something fresh out there.”

And as Keel keeps putting his own contemporary spin on traditional bluegrass, looking back, he realizes making music is what he was bound to do.

“I heard a quote one time, some musician once said they can’t see themselves doing anything else,” he said. “It’s what I’ve always known I wanted to do.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/life/x846271976/Larry-Keel-brings-band-to-the-V-Club-to-support-various-charities?i=0

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Image by Neal with the Strutting Duck

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge are heading out for an Alabama Getaway this weekend! The first stop is tonight at 4:30pm CST/ 5:30 EST into Wildman Steve’s Radio Station! They’ll be doing a live session; you can tune in at www.wildmansteve.com.

Tonight’s show (Fri 11/19) is at the print shop/ venue The Standard Deluxe in Waverly, Alabama with the Bibb City Ramblers! You can find out more in the Corner News and on Facebook.  Then, on Saturday, they move on to the Workplay Theater in Birmingham and head on to play Callahan’s in Mobile on Sunday!

Here is an excerpt of the Corner News article:


Guitar great collaborates in Waverly

by Andrew R. Jones
As far as flat-pickin’ guitar goes, Larry Keel is second to none. The bearded guitar legend has been wowing audiences since a young age and has the credentials to prove it.Born and raised in Southern Virginia, Keel was reared on some of the oldest music that America had to offer. When his Dad and brother began giving him guitar lessons before he was 10 he immediately took to the instrument and the rest is history. 

Keel’s recent collaboration with Natural Bridge has spawned two albums of original, high-spirited bluegrass. The group is currently touring in support of their most recent album, “Backwoods,” a collection of tunes that take traditional mountain bluegrass jams and turns them on their head.
Here’s a video to get you ready for this flatpickin’ weekend!

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Keith Warren from Music News First just posted this review of Larry Keel and Natural Bridge’s album, Backwoods:

Backwoods Review:

by Keith Warren with Music New First

Fiddles, banjos, and true southern vocals…. OH MY! Larry Keel & Natural Bridge have created a wonderful sound and a truly enjoyable listening experience with “Backwoods”, produced by Larry Keel and Keller Williams. With combinations of strings, percussion, and vocals that border between southern twang and southern rock, this album is truly noteworthy.

Throughout the course of this album, you encounter many stories of questionable love, outsider’s opinions, and even songs with no vocals. Though some artists are merely talented vocally, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge prove that you don’t need words to get your point to the public. Strong string sounds coupled with spirited performers brings a simply astounding aspect of country and bluegrass for your listening pleasure.

Larry Keel & Natural Bridge are able to pull in listeners from various genres of music. With songs like “They” and “Ghost Driver” this phenomenal group of performers paints a vivid picture of life and what comes of it. Meanwhile, songs like “Bluegrass in the Backwoods” and “Bohemian Reel” allow you to relax and let the music take you to a place where no words are needed. Both the vocal tracks and the instrumental tracks on this album satisfy your craving for downhome bluegrass, as well as classic country. With 10 tracks on this album, you’ll be stimulated with unbelievable audio that will leave you wishing you had more!

All in all, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge has made it to the top of my recommendation list. You can find their album, along with show dates, booking information, and more at their website HERE. You can also contact them through MySpace, ReverbNation, Twitter, and Facebook. If you have iTunes or Rhapsody, you can also download their music through those specific programs. Whatever way you do it, make sure you pick up your copy of Larry Keel & Natural Bridge-“Backwoods”. I’m sure that you will enjoy it and quite possibly recommend it to your friends!

Larry Keel & Natural Bridge: Backwoods

©2009 Larry Keel All Rights Reserved BMI
1. Faster Horses (w/guest musician Bobby Britt)
2. Diamond Break (w/guest musician Jeff Covert)
3. Bluegrass in the Backwoods (w/guest musician Bobby Britt)
4. Ghost Driver
5. Bohemian Reel
6. They
7. Mother Nature’s Son (w/guest musician Bobby Britt)
8. Bitten By a Snake
9. Crocodile Man
10. Swarmin Bees

For more on Larry Keel check the full blog post: http://musicnewsfirst.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/3651951-larry-keel-natural-bridge-backwood-written-by-keith-warren

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by Go! music critic Bill Kramer

December 10, 2009


Staunton News Leader

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge has become such a national act that the talented guitarist and his band members don’t get to play in their native Valley as much as they’d like.

But on the heels of the group’s fine recent show at the Mockingbird comes another home appearance, this time at Clementine Café in Harrisonburg. Just finishing a tour of the Pacific Northwest, Keel and company will return to entertain its large local following with more music off its newest recording, “Backwoods.”

The title of the CD reflects much of Keel’s philosophy of keeping a low profile and letting his music do the talking for him. It also is in keeping with his Blue Ridge Mountain roots, which moved him to respect what he calls “American Mountain Music,” bluegrass foundations on which he has added his considerable colorings.

The CD was produced by Keel’s picking buddy, Keller Williams, himself a trail-blazing guitarist. Keel’s wife, Jenny, Natural Bridge’s bassist, joined the pair a few years back to record “Grass,” which explored bluegrass and beyond. Their friendship has grown, and the new CD allows everyone in Natural Bridge to shine.

It features an eclectic mix of tunes, including covers such as the Beatles’ “Mother Nature’s Son,” Tom T. Hall’s “Faster Horses” and Kenny Baker’s “Bluegrass in the Backwoods,” but also spotlights fresh originals by the band.

Mandolin player Mark Schimick contributes “Ghost Driver” and “Swarmin’ Bees,” while banjo player Jason Flournoy adds “Bohemian Reel.” These tunes hold up nicely alongside the three songs Keel penned and “Diamond Break,” which Keel co-wrote with Chris Jones.

As usual, Keel and Natural Bridge continue to redefine what new acoustic and bluegrass entail, throwing into the mix dashes of jazz and rock influences that brew a sound full of energy and nuance.

The current incarnation of the group has been together for some time, and its studio prowess on “Backwoods” is topped only by the member’s chemistry on stage. Keel’s music has always featured permutations, and his improvisational take on anything he plays is enhanced greatly by the fact the rest of the group is with him at every turn, adding its own touch.

Music for Keel has always been about collaboration, be it with Natural Bridge, Keller Williams or the many luminaries he has performed with, including Tony Rice, Darrel Scott, Sam Bush, Drew Emmitt and a whole roster of other noted musicians.

One of the highest compliments he’s ever received was when bluegrass patriarch Del McCoury ranked him as one of the three guitarists he liked best, keeping company with Hank Garland and Tony Rice. That’s pretty high praise from a man who has played with the best in his four decades of making music.

To show respect for Keel and Natural Bridge, McCoury made sure the group was booked at the very first Delfest, his bluegrass festival in Maryland. McCoury also included a cover of Keel’s “Mountain Song” on his 2005 Grammy-winning disc “The Company We Keep.”

But while Keel’s individual reputation grows among his peers, it’s with Natural Bridge that he can lean into the songs and make some of the most interesting music of his career.

If You Go:
  • what: Larry Keel and Natural Bridge in Concert
  • when:Saturday, 9 p.m.
  • where: Clementine Cafe, Harrisonburg
  • tickets: $10
  • more info: (540) 801-8881 or http://www.clementinecafe.com
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    Performances by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Bawn in the Mash (from Kentucky), Dwayne Brooke (From The Woodshedders), and The Keel Brothers (Larry and Gary).

    Video Preview by  G Social Media/ AskAsheville.

    LARRY KEEL AND NATURAL BRIDGE is undeniably the most powerful, innovative and all-out exhilarating Acoustic Americana ensemble performing today. Period. Lead by award-winning Flatpicking Guitar genius Larry Keel, this group takes Bluegrass instrumentation into totally surprising places and spaces, from the purest traditional forms to the most astonishing experimental sonic journeys a listener can undertake. The mission is always clear: to let technical skill, honest emotion and fearlessness connect their playing and singing to their audience, to entertain and to thoroughly ENJOY the experience! “We hope,” says Keel to reporter TJ Boley, “to achieve a commonness between everyone that listens to our music, and let the magic of the music take over the moment and bring everyone together. We want them to be pulled into the music.”

    Keel himself absorbed the best lessons of his Bluegrass family upbringing, both sides deeply steeped in the rich mountain music culture and heritage of Southwest Virginia. From there, he has always integrated that solid musical grounding and natural-born TALENT with his own incomparable approach to flatpicking the guitar and to his original music. The combination is pretty irresistible, and has earned Keel the highest respect and billing among the top acoustic musicians alive, and some now gone: Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, Sam Bush, Del McCoury, John Hartford, Bill Monroe, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, to name a few. And his fierce, high-spirited energy also appeals to young rockers, jammers and alt country pickers and fans who are equally drawn to Keel’s deep rumbling voice, his earthy and imaginative song-writing, and his down-home-gritty-good-time charm. Keel regularly collaborates with JamBand and Rock giants Yonder Mountain String Band, Keller Williams, Jorma Kaukonen, David Nelson, Jim Lauderdale, members of String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon, amongst others.

    Joining the award-winning Flatpickin legend are his MIGHTY band Natural Bridge: Mark Schimick on mandolin and vocals, Jason Flournoy on banjo and vocals, and wife Jenny Keel holding strong on upright bass and vocals. You won’t believe what these musicians achieve with just these simple, acoustic instruments, with nothing but volume enhancement to deliver the musical message. One live encounter with this artist and his band proves undeniably and out loud to the world that they are the best at what they do and they cannot be replicated, thus placing them in a musical class all theirown: LARRY KEEL AND NATURAL BRIDGE will amaze you!

    Fishing Reel Video of Larry Keel and Natural Bridge at Watermelon Park Fest ’09
    Internet Archives for Larry Keel live recordings

    Bawn in the Mash is Experimental Americana for Intergalactic Folk. “Bawn in the Mash bridge the rarely traversed gap between bluegrass and rock ‘n’ roll with the effortlessness of careful students of both.”- The Nashville Scene. They are from Paducah, KY. www.bawninthemash.com

    Dwayne Brooke is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter who shines out like a ray of moonshine from the dense tangle we call West Virginia. Somewhere between Jimi Hendrix and Stephen Foster he became enchanted, and thus supremely influenced, by the (awesome) musical stylings of Django Reinhardt. He has rendered forth a host of modestly incredible songs, which sources report, cause listeners to “furiously oscillate their hind-parts and experience satori…” Dwayne is also crown-prince of “The Woodshedders”, the amazing septet that explores the boundaries of traditional acoustic music, and bring forward an array of influences including Swing, Old-Time, Bluegrass, Rhythm & Blues, and especially the Hot Club Jazz of Django Reinhardt. The Woodshedders’ debut CD “Catch That Yardbird” just won the JustPlainFolks Roots Album of the Year Award for 09. http://www.thewoodshedders.com

    The Keel Brothers consider that their music is deeply rooted in their father Jim Keel’s generation and his musical tastes, drawing on selections from the earliest Stanley Brothers, Hank Williams, Doc and Merle Watson, Classic Country Gentlemen, fiddle tunes and flatpicking guitar tunes and old ballads that were always a part of the weekly “jam sessions” of the Keels’ large circle of Bluegrass picker-friends. It was Larry’s older brother Gary (older by 12 years) who taught him to play the guitar at age 7, and bought him his first instrument. The “Keel Brothers” project is the long overdue glimpse into the fantastic family energy that launched young Larry into virtuoso playing by the age of 17. Listen to the Keel Brothers here.

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    by Monty Chandler

    October 23, 2:38 PM

    Charlotte Music Examiner www.examiner.com

    Larry Keel & Natural Bridge @ the Visulite Theatre         © Monty Chandler

    Larry Keel & Natural Bridge @ the Visulite Theatre © Monty Chandler

    Larry Keel & Natural Bridge brought their world class Bluegrass performance to Charlotte’s Visulite Theatre thursday night. The show featured Larry Keel as the master guitarist; his talented wife Jenny Keel on the Upright Bass; long-time friend, associate, co-writer and Mandolinist Mark Schimick; Louisiana native and Banjo master Jason Flournoy.

    As a group, Larry and the Natural Bridge members have spent much of 2009 touring and promoting their latest CD release “Backwoods” which has met with critical acclaim across the Bluegrass and Americana national music scene. These guys drive bluegrass to the edge with their song selection, unique material and technical competency on their instruments – man that just doesn’t even cover how good they are!

    Photos of Larry Keel & Natural Bridge’s Visulite performance.

    Before the show, I sat down with Larry for a short chat while he waited for his to-go dinner to arrive at the Visulite. Life on the road – arrive, unload gear, perform sound-check, grab a bite to eat, deliver the goods in a solid performance – and fit an interview in there as well. Larry was extremely gracious with his time, grounded in his interaction, and thoughtful of the people who make what he does possible.

    Larry Keel @ the Visulite Theatre by Monty Chandler

    Larry Keel @ the Visulite Theatre by Monty Chandler

    Larry has a fun-filled, yet busy, calendar planned for the remainder of 2009 with the Jourma Kaukonens Guitar Camp at the Fur Peace Ranch beginning later in October. Larry supports the Camp as an instructor and mentor for novice and accomplished guitar players alike. Following that the band has 6 shows within the Virginia / Carolina area, several with Tony Rice, before heading over to the Pacific Northwest for 5 shows at the beginning of December. Larry Keel & Natural Bridge will close this year and begin the next with a New Year’s Eve celebration in Asheville, NC.

    While bluegrass music has traditionally had an appeal to people of all ages from 18 to 80, I wondered about Larry’s views on the growth of the genre within today’s technology era. He’s already seen the changing dynamic involving trends in music sales transitioning from physical CD’s to online download. Larry shared, “Everything from marketing to sales to production is changing rapidly. Youth today don’t buy CD’s. They buy the song digitally and integrate it with their other devices. The internet helps drive visibility to the music, let’s folks experience it to know if they like it. ” With an audience that also listens to everything from Nine Inch Nails to Hip Hop to Reggae, Larry believes that bluegrass’ appeal is in its own diversity within the genre. “The young folks like the high energy songs and instruments used in bluegrass music. Technology allows for availability of the music and peoples access to that music”.

    As a recognized flat-picking guitar master, song-writer, and band leader, Larry shared his thoughts about his roles as performer, teacher and student.    As a performer Larry feels it’s his responsibility to give it his all – “a selfless performance leaving everything on the stage”. Performing is Larry’s avenue for communicating his soul via a spiritual performances. As a teacher Larry gets “enormous pleasure from watching the student and observing their habits while providing them guidance in their achievement of what they want as a player”.  His role is to help them get better. Passing on what he knows and experiencing their joy brings Larry great satisfaction. As a student Larry feels he is in constant learning mode. It’s through “observation of others, from a solo singer performing in excellent tone, to Clapton’s range and rifts on his guitar, to listening to U2’s Edge. Observing how they achieve the emotions and communications of the point they are trying to get across in their music” that Larry continues to expand his music and appreciate others creativity.
    Larry Keel @ the Visulite Theatre by Monty Chandler

    Larry Keel @ the Visulite Theatre by Monty Chandler

    This has been a very good year for Larry & Natural Bridge. Even with the recent release of their newest CD “Backwoods”, the band continues to work on fresh material with approximately 15 different songs under development. With several songwriters in the group, each knows what may fit the bands vibe and brings what they think will work to the table. This keeps it lively for everyone. Larry promises “fresh material throughout 2010”. An indepth article in Bluegrass Unlimited should be out in the February timeframe. He’s looking forward to working closely with Tony Rice and Peter Rowan throughout the year on new material. There’s even a “possibility” that we’ll see a new CD release from Kellar & The Keels in 2010. All new material – let’s keep our fingers crossed for that little prediction to come true! Larry also plans to stay active in the festival circuit next year. It’s his way of keeping in touch with all of the fans of bluegrass music – “shaking hands and meeting people is what it’s all about”. By far the thing that has Larry most excited at the moment is the work he’s doing with a project called Fishin’ & Pickin’. With fishing being his favorite past-time and along with mountain living brings him the balance needed in life, Larry explains that he “needed a way to turn the tables of Jenny’s insistence that pickin’ come before fishin’.   Best way to do that is form a company that allows for both”. The objective of this project is to integrate Larry’s expansive knowledge of everything fishing, from the how to the why to the where to the what with, Larry hopes to produce video with tips on the aforementioned aspects of the fine art of fishing. Putting the content on a Website (Fishin’ & Pickin’) that would feature fresh releases of music video every 30-45 days, pickin’ tips, and highlights of upcoming music events, as well as tackle tips and video of fishing trips to places like Alaska, Belize, Idaho, and Perry, GA. There’s a sparkle in Larry’s eye as he describes his vision for this new endeavor – with that passion there’s no doubting its success.

    Photos of Larry Keel & Natural Bridge’s Visulite performance.

    In closing our chat, just as Larry’s dinner arrives, he made it a point of asking me to include a humble “thank-you” to all the people who come out to the shows and support live music in their community. That’s what makes it possible for folks like him to do what they do and for the shows to exist.  For one, I’m glad he does it all!

    Keepin’ it live,


    Click to view a slideshow of Monty Chandler Photographs of LKNB

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    by Patrick Hinely/ Open Ear

    The Rockbridge Advocate ~  February 09

    medlogoCarrying on a heritage can be a difficult task for anyone who wants to extend or expand a tradition as well as preserve it, and grow it must if it is not to petrify. Guitarist and band leader Larry Keel’s gift is to be able to do this gracefully, without sounding like he’s sitting on any fence, though he has one foot firmly planted in the proud history of Euro-indigenous Appalachian musical tradition, while his other sets restlessly out for places the music hasn’t been yet.

    He has achieved a balance which eludes many, yielding a sound kinetic but seldom frenetic, capable of a sweetness that doesn’t cloy, as well as an irresistibly driving energy, each unto their own appropriate moments.  Keel does not do this alone, and Natural Bridge too has an unusual balance, one that few ensembles can maintain, in being both organized and organic at once, masters of their instruments, with chops to spare and nothing to prove.

    This is a good place to be, especially when heading into a recording studio, where the urge for inclusion can too easily prevail over the ruthless surgery known as editing, with the latter being as essential a part of the creative process for a properly finished album as was the initial creation of the music. BACKWOODS is based in song forms, but not confined by those. Instrumental filigree is flawless, extensive, expansive, in the moment, and thus always tasteful.

    “Bluegrass in the Backwoods,” a classic Kenny Baker tune, clock in longest, at 5:30 +, bringing Django pleasantly to mind, as well as, to a lesser degree, Grisman’s dawggy style. The shortest, just under 1:40, is another instrumental, “Bohemian Reel,” by Natural Bridge banjo player Jason Flournoy, who plays it as if possessed by the spirit of Earl Scruggs, which was in turn possessed by the spirit of J.S. Bach. The other instrumental is Keel’s own “Crocodile Man” an exploratory adventure that sounds like the player shad decided beforehand where the song would start and where it would end up, but not how they would get from one to the other. In any case it was a  scenic route.

    All seven of the other tunes have vocals, from Keel’s “They,” a declaration of Independence if ever there was one, to the unusual vocal harmonies of the Beatles’ “Mother Nature’s Son” and the philosophical comedy of Tom T Hall’s “Faster Horses,” Mandolinist Mark Shimick penned two tunes, “Ghost Driver” and Swarmin’ Bees” and and generously shares a solo spotlight in both. Keel’s “Bitten By a Snake” may be the most fun, with massed voices resonating joyously, and his “Diamond Break,” co-credited to Chris Jones, is what a hit in Nashville might sound like if the music mafia there was struck with a sudden attack of taste.  There’s something here for all comers , without fluff.

    The Selflessness award goes to bassist Jenny Keel, whose pulse steady and fluid, and whose harmony vocals lend a grace that can make the chorus into a choir.

    It takes courage as well as focus to face today’s market with an album that times in under 37 minutes, less than half the capacity of the CD format. But then I have to admire anyone who doesn’t keep talking after they’ve finished saying what they have to say. That is an act of mercy, and, on that note,enough said.

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    October 7, 7:55 AMCharlotte Music ExaminerMonty Chandler

    Larry Keel - Photo by: © Just1Jenn

    Larry Keel - Photo by: © Just1Jenn

    Larry Keel & Natural Bridge will be performing at The Visulite Theatre in Charlotte on October 22nd ’09. The second studio project from the legendary flatpicker Larry Keel and his talented acoustic band ‘Natural Bridge’ is now available and will be featured as they perfom on this leg of their tour.

    The CD titled “Backwoods” features 7 original compositions of the 10 tunes emphasizing explosive Bluegrass and Americana music. Keen penned 4 of the tunes while Natural Bridge’s mandolinist Mark Schimick contributed 2 tunes to “Backwoods”.

    With “Backwoods”, Keel and his band deliver one of the most powerful performances heard in Acoustic American music. Make plans to see them deliver one of those performances on the 22nd at The Visulite!

    Check back here shortly after the show for an update with an interview with Larry and the band as well as photos of the show!

    Keepin’ it live,


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