Posts Tagged ‘flat-picker’

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge head back though Richmond, VA to play the Capital Ale House on Friday April 22nd, 2011.

Style Weekly did a nice preview stating, “Sporting the wildest mutton chop sideburns since Ambrose Burnside, flat picker Larry Keel plays bluegrass Americana that exhibits the kind of technical mastery of acoustic guitar only time can provide. Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the veteran player and songwriter — alongside his band, Natural Bridge — has remained a much-respected fixture of the Appalachian musical tradition. With the kind of gruff vocal delivery that could take Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder by surprise…”

Listen in to a wonderful interview podcast with Larry and Jenny Keel on Eternal JamNation here: http://eternaljamnationradio.com/shows/LarryandJennyKeel.mp3

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Below are excerpts from a great review in the Middlesboro Daily News of Larry Keel and Natural Bridge from last weekend’s show at Johnson City, TN’s newest venue, The Spring Street Music Hall.

Trip on a Tank: Larry Keel and Natural Bridge light up Johnson City

by Adam Young www.middlesborodailynews.com
. . .    . . .    . . .
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — The journey for music is a familiar occurrence in my contemporary life. The complete experience of travel, companionship and performance is truly something my heart yearns for often; and this weekend I satisfied my craving and witnessed a legendary group of Americana musicians in action for the first time.

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge brought their innovative sound to the recently-established Spring Street Music Hall on Saturday. The spacious venue had quite the crowd for only its second night in existence, bringing together a nice assortment of youth and tradition, and the approachable staff provided folks with a rich atmosphere, good beer selection and one quality sound system perfect for the Keel experience.

The Virginia-based ensemble, considered by many to be one of the most powerful, inventive and complete Americana groups performing today, lived up to all the word-of-mouth hype on Saturday night and delivered a dynamic performance — which was nothing short of spectacular.

Larry Keel, an award-winning flat picker and overall respected musician, along with his group Natural Bridge — consisting of the vastly talented Mark Schimick (mandolin and vocals), his wife Jenny Keel (upright bass and vocals) and Will Lee (banjo) — were vibrant from the beginning. It only took about six songs into the first set before the crowd livened up and hit the dance floor romping and stomping.

The mighty group lit up the stage for nearly three hours on Saturday night, with a brief intermission in between sets, and honestly there was never a dull moment. They played songs from across Keel’s extensive career and many traditional numbers — and even incorporated into the mix a few good-timin’ tunes from the likes of Tony Rice and Kenny Baker.

Moreover, both sets were overflowing with periods of experimental and improvisational jamming, and this presented each member with the opportunity to display their distinctive styles and talents (as a tribute to the greats).

On stage, the band puts out such unexplainable energy, and truly has a knack for taking traditional instrumentation and putting a complex, modern twist on it. Keel and Natural Bridge, as a whole, can transition from traditional tunes to reggae-like vibrancy with ease — which is like going from mountains to islands in mere musical moments — and there is never time for discontent or boredom.

Keel and his talented bunch are very particular in their approach, flawless in their execution, and a joy both on and off the stage. There is such freedom in the music that Larry Keel and Natural Bridge create, and this was sincerely a valuable experience.

. . .    . . .    . . .

Adam Young is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted by e-mail at ayoung@heartlandpublications.com.

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Great preview in the Fredericksburg Freelance Star about Larry Keel and Natural Bridge’s upcoming show at the Otterhouse this Saturday, September 11th.


Keel’s local bluegrass roots branch out in many directions

Date published: 9/9/2010



Most area residents are aware of the numerous national claims to fame our local bluegrass musicians have made. Yet, some may be unaware that perhaps the most prolific and progressive flat-picker performing today spent many nights picking away in and around Fredericksburg.

Photo by Bright Life Photography

For the versed and unversed alike, on Saturday night Larry Keel and his band, Natural Bridge, will rock The Otter House and demonstrate why his act is consistently touted as the hottest, most provocative and most entertaining bluegrass band of this decade.

Growing up in Warrenton, Keel frequently played the open-mic nights at the Irish Brigade (located in the same spot that The Otter House now calls home). As he made connections with other local musicians, he spearheaded a healthy progressive-bluegrass scene in the Fredericksburg area with his band Magraw Gap and later the Larry Keel Experience.

Becoming increasingly more renowned for his flat-picking virtuosity, Keel claimed several first-place prizes during the mid-’90s at Telluride competitions, which for all intents and purposes are the World Cup of bluegrass.

In 2005, Keel formed his much lauded band Natural Bridge with his wife, Jenny Keel, on string bass and Mark Schimick on mandolin. Their latest release, “Backwoods” (2009) is a course in the direction the Keels are leading the bluegrass scene, which is to say they are taking the scene somewhere new. It is a must listen for anyone claiming to be tuned to the motions of country/bluegrass music. Within, you find the complexity and virtuosic instrumentation of traditional bluegrass in the vein of Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs–but the comparisons need not go much further.

In a recent phone interview, Jenny Keel remarked on the band’s determination to go beyond traditional bluegrass.

“We put a lot of energy into honoring the forefathers of bluegrass. They were the original alternative music makers of their time,” said Jenny Keel. “But bluegrass has to grow, it has to evolve. None of the greats in the last three generations have stayed true to the Monroe-Scruggs way.”

Indeed, the Keels’ original tunes stand alone in a genre driven by the cover. The melodies, grounded by Larry Keel’s uniquely deep timbre, are backed in places by overhanging Tom Petty- esque harmonies and the pulse of Jenny Keel’s quiet-yet-strong bass playing. Meanwhile, both Larry Keel and Schimick set the standard for virtuosic picking throughout by melding classic bluegrass runs with elements of rock, gypsy jazz and the blues. In the end, progressive bluegrass may be an understatement, but it is clear that what the Keels are doing is progress.

The Keels also recently released their equally acclaimed second album as Keller and the Keels–a collaboration with hometown hero Keller Williams–titled “Thief.” This genre-bending album is a collection of covers (e.g., Amy Winehouse, Marcy Playground) that existed beyond the canon of bluegrass before Williams rearranged and captured them with the able hands of the Keels behind him. This album’s astounding success is an indication of how the branches of bluegrass are outgrowing its roots in our mountainous landscape and becoming, in some ways, a form of pop music.

While some traditionalists fear these changes, the Keels fully support them. For the most part, it is through this growth that the youth of today are learning about the wonderful music our area has produced for hundreds of years.

Larry’s attitude (in the words of Jenny Keel) is, “If I’m out there doing my thing and I throw in a Bob Marley tune, then I’ve got them listening. Then I lay on a full-on mountain song, like a Ralph Stanley song. Then I’ve got them to listen to Ralph Stanley when they might never have heard it.”

For this Saturday’s show, fans should arrive, as cliched as it is to say, expecting the unexpected.

“Larry grew up with a bunch of pickers, and there is likely to be some crazy hijinks beyond our Natural Bridge format,” said Jenny Keel.

Rumors have it that Will Lee (son of Ricky Lee, the Ralph Stanley-backing legend) and Gary Keel, Larry’s brother, will be in attendance, and likely onstage.

To be sure, the same creativity and cohesion that drive the constant evolution of this band will be present. Count in the virtuosic musicians and the feel-good atmosphere of the Otter House and this show becomes a bargain too sweet to pass up.

Ryan Green is a freelance writer and musician in Richmond. Reach him at
Email: ryugreen@yahoo.com.

Read original ==>> Fredericksburg.com – >> FLAT-PICKERS WITH LOCAL ROOTS REMAIN AT THE FOREFRONT OF PROGRESSIVE BLUEGRASS – page 2 FLS http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2010/092010/09092010/573655/index_html?page=2#ixzz0z3SFWhbw

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R.I.P. Trip

February 26, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

The Herald-Dispatch

by Dave Lavender


One of my favorite sayings I ever ran across was scrawled on an outhouse wall in Williams, Ind., at the Padanaram. The saying read, “Life on Earth sure is expensive but at least you get one, free yearly trip around the sun.”

Amen, and somebody who’s made that annual sol journey a lot brighter and colorful for a whole lot of folks in the Mountain State and beyond was John Kevin “Trip” McKlenny, the founder of the Terra Alta, W.Va.-based Sunshine Daydream festival grounds.

Trip passed away this last week after a two-year bout with liver cancer. His memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday by the Cheat River.

Virginia flat-picker Larry Keel, who I interviewed last week for his upcoming show (March 5) at the V Club, took a moment and talked about Trip and all he did for music in the mountains.

“I can’t even imagine how many times we’ve played up there, it’s been for years, really, and we’ve played with so many different combos,” said Keel, who has a new CD out this summer with good buddy Keller Williams. “One of the first times was with Leftover Salmon and the last time we played up there it was with Tony Rice and that was really a special one. Trip’s really done a lot for music up there and he was a good, good fellow and we’re going to miss him. The older you get the more you lose and you see a lot more loss. The spirit of that fellow will live on because he did a lot for folks and cared a lot about people.”

Bonnie Branciaroli, a longtime friend of Trip’s and who’s been trucking around the country for decades with her husband Mark in the Elkins-based jam band, ZEN, said life won’t be the same without Trip.

You can help keep Trip’s legacy alive by sharing the music as Sunshine Daydream is carrying on with a full slate of festival shows. The 2010 Festival Season begins May 12-14 weekend with the 10th annual TreeHuggers Ball. Ekoostik Hookah rolls in for two nights June 18-19 for the Highland Spring Jam, the 25th annual Jerry Garcia’s Birthday Bash is set for July 29-31 and The Recipe Family Cookout is set for Sept. 16-17 and the 10th annual Halloween Masquerade party is set for Oct. 15-16. For more info, go online at www.sunshinedreams.com.

Dave Lavender covers entertainment for The Herald-Dispatch. E-mail him at lavender@herald-dispatch.com.

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