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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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Here’s fun blurb about Larry Keel & Natural Bridge’s upcoming show at the V-Cub this Friday!

by DAVE LAVENDER, The Herald-Dispatch

A Friday night bluegrass blast

Burn away winter’s frost with the red-hot picking of Virginia flat-picker Larry Keel and his band Natural Bridge, who are blowing into the V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington at 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10.

Keel has had a heck of a year dropping a new CD, “Thief,” with long-time buddy Keller Williams in the spring, and then touring all over the country at some of the country’s biggest festivals with Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Keller and the Keels, Keel and Adam Aijala, Jeff Austin and The Keels, Magraw Gap, and other interesting collaborations.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Go online atwww.vclublive.com/tickets.php for tickets or call 304-781-0680. Read an interview with the great bearded guitarist in Thursday’s Herald-Dispatch Lifesection.

READ THE ORIGINAL POST HERE:http://www.herald-dispatch.com/entertainment/x885909916/Smorgasbord-of-music-on-tap-for-Tri-State

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March 03, 2010 @ 10:35 PM

DAVE LAVENDER

The Herald-Dispatch

www.herald-dispatch.com

Photo courtesy of Ken Bloch Photography Mark Schimick, left, and Larry Keel

Snow piles have melted away, the calendar has turned the page to March, so the heck with waiting ’til May. Larry Keel is starting festival season right now.

Keel, the festival favorite flat-picker who’s burned up the stage with everyone from Yonder Mountain String Band and Keller Williams to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Tony Rice, brings his red-hot band, Natural Bridge to the V Club, 741 6th Ave., for a Friday night hoe-down.

Cover is $10 or $13 day of the show to see Keel, who will be joined by Natural Bridge (Mark Schimick on mandolin and vocals, Jason Flournoy on banjo and vocals, and his wife Jenny Keel on upright bass and vocals).

Keel said he’s been holed up this winter writing lots of songs, recording a new CD with his longtime buddy, guitar master Keller Williams, and just waiting on spring.

“I’ve been snowed in and snowed in and snowed out,” Keel said laughing about trying to make it to shows from out of his southwest Virginia mountain home during the maw of the winter. “We went down to Florida during the week and it started snowing down there, and get home and it was snowing again, and we’re going to West Virginia and it’s snowing again.”

A little cabin time hasn’t been a bad thing though, Keel said. Natural Bridge has been holed up, getting tight and ready to unleash the party with their festival friends.

“Schimick and ‘Deep South’ Jason Flournoy we’ve been having a wonderful time and we’ve been working on a lot of new music and they’ve been working on a lot of new music and so we’ve had a little more time to do that,” Keel said. “We’ve got some fresh music and are ready to come in there and wind it up and get wild.”

Keel, who’s been a festival favorite at Sunshine Daydream, Hookahville and the Appalachian Uprising in our region, said there’s something special about coming around the Mountain State to play.

“There’s so many good folks there we love all you folks in West Virginia,” Keel said, “We got started up there a while ago with the Davisson Brothers and we did a lot of hang-time with them and a lot of fishing and eating good and playing music and raising hell and that’s a beautiful thing. There’s a wonderful kind of hospitality with just a lot of the folks and promoters and it seems that West Virginia is brimming with music lovers and artists and that enclave.”

Keel, who has traipsed around the country with everyone from Adam Aijala (of Yonder Mountain) to Rice, said although he travels everywhere to play his new-grassed mountain music, there is something special about these Appalachian Mountains.

“I don’t think the people not from the mountains understand,” Keel said. “It’s my home and it was what I was pushed out of and what I’ll be put back down into. I think a lot of people pride themselves in that and it’s part of that majestic thing of the mountains.”

Keel said he’s very much looking forward to festival season.

For the first time in its 9 year history, he won’t be coming to the Tri-State’s largest jam festival, Appalachian Uprising in Scottown, Ohio.

He does have nearby festival gigs at Hookahville #33 up in Ohio, and DelFest over in southern Pa.

Keel said he was tore up hearing about the loss this winter of John Kevin “Trip” McKlenny, the founder of the Terra Alta, W.Va.-based Sunshine Daydream festival grounds. Trip, a long-time friend of the Keels, was buried last week after a two-year bout with liver cancer.

“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,” Keel said. “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.”

This year for festival season, the Keels will be releasing a new CD with long-time friend and oft-musical-touring partner, Keller Williams.

“We’ll have a brand new Keller and the Keels CD by June and it’s going to be really hot, it’s on fire,” Keel said. “I’m waiting on a copy right now, just to check it over. We’re super excited about it. I can’t disclose any more info about it other than to stay tuned to his website and mine.”

In addition to the new CD, the Keels have had their web site revamped, and Keel has also launched a new web site that encompasses two of his life’s loves — Fishin and Pickin — with his fishing buddy Shannon Wheeler, a local fiddle player and fishermen who works at the local Gander Mountain, outdoors store.

“I got so many hard-core fishing buddies everywhere I go that have developed over the years and they all love music and fishing and we just started talking more and more and so we have started this web site that has pictures and videos and news from the picking world and the fishing world,” Keel said.

Keel’s already gotten submissions from such musical friends as Aijala, who was down in Central America fishing, as well as Taj Mahal, and others.

Keel, who was known at the nearby Appalachian Uprising for his stage-filling jam that would pack the stage with a dozen or more pickers, said life just is better when you open yourself up and share in the music and good times both on stage and off.

“With me and Adam it’s just the guitars and doing our thing and doing some really cool freaky material and it is just so comfortable and that’s the way the music should be,” Keel said. “There shouldn’t be no hidden agenda just really soulful playing and writing and getting down to business. It is the most serious blessing of the whole thing. I grew up being so inspired by seeing and hearing all of these players like Sam Bush and Tony Rice, and even a lot of names you don’t hear or have never heard of, so it is like full circle for me to now get to stand in that circle with them and make music and trade riffs and feelings off of each other. It is the most amazing thing and I can’t believe it is happening sometimes.”

If You Go:

WHAT: National-act acoustic artist, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington

WHEN: 11 p.m. Friday, March 5. Show starts at 10 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $10 advance or $13 at the door

CONTACT: Call 304-552-7569 or go online at www.vclublive.com orwww.myspace.com/wvvclub

HEAR SOME KEEL: Go online at www.myspace.com/larry keel to hear a batch of original songs from Keel and Natural Bridge, including “Diamond Break,” a tune Keel wrote after Hurricane Katrina about one of his favorite music cities, New Orleans.

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