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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,

Monty

Click to view a slideshow of Monty Chandler Photographs of LKNB

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by Cary Stemle
August 21, 9:57 AM
Louisville Arts & Culture Examiner www.examiner.com

I got a note from earlier this week about a late-breaking Louisville show by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, a hot bluegrass quartet from Virginia.

They’re in Kentucky for the International Newgrass Festival (performing Aug. 21) in Bowling Green, and they’ll head up I-65 to play Saturday evening, Aug. 22, at the Hideaway Saloon, the cozy Highlands pub that’s nearly hidden away at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Bonnycastle Avenue (across the street from the Guitar Emporium). Keel and band are set to go on around 11 p.m., preceded by the Whiskey Bent Valley Boys ($10 adv/$12 day of show).

Keel has a well-established name in bluegrass circles — he’s a two-time flat-picking guitar champion, a fine songwriter (he’s had tunes covered by Del McCoury and Acoustic Syndicate) and a strong vocalist with a warm, deep and expressive voice. His quartet is rounded out by Jenny Keel on bass fiddle/vocals, Mark Schimick on mandolin/vocals and Jason Flournoy on banjo/vocals.

Photo by Jon C Hancock

Photo by Jon C Hancock


Listening to a few MP3s, I’ve been impressed by their hot musicianship and vocal harmonies, and the sound recalls newer ’grass outfits like Union Station and Nickel Creek, without straying too far from tradition. It’s a lively and powerful sound — each picker is a heavyweight — and I can only imagine how it’ll pop at the Hideaway. (One of my musical axioms is that bluegrass, in particular, is a form that really must be seen live to be appreciated.)

The outfit’s latest album, Backwoods, came out in February (produced by Keller Williams — download a few songs here.) Keel appears in the soon-to-be released film, “The Man They Couldn’t Hang,” and also performs two songs.

“Over the past decade and a half (Keel) has made a name for himself through his fiery-fingered guitar mastery, his almost other-worldly vocal style, and his wild, progressive mountain sound that has one foot firmly planted in tradition while the other reaches out beyond the boundaries,” wrote The Velvet Rut. “In the end there is very little in the world of bluegrass music that comes close to sounding like Larry Keel.”

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