Posts Tagged ‘Mark Shimick’

Interview with Larry Keel at the Festy

by Diane Farineau

Author, Diane Farineau, is  researching & co-writing The Festival Project, a photo book project which features the combined works of photographers Chester SimpsonMilo Farineau

One of the highlights at the Infamous Stringduster’s new Festival “The Festy” was a Sunday appearance by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. The trio quickly became a quartet as they were joined on stage by guitarist and Larry’s brother, Gary. When asked if they played together a lot, Larry responded “It’s rare. But when we do festivals in the area, he comes out and does some picking with us, it’s always so fun! ”

After their rousing set, the band spoke with members of the press and then settled in to just hang out for a little bit. “Everyone’s just here to want to hang out for a bit, which we don’t get to do much” said Mark Shimick. “The Stringdusters will play a lot of traditional bluegrass festivals, where we play some jam band festivals, so we don’t get together that much so it’s nice to see

The band is known to end up picking in the parking lot on occasion, which they enjoy, and Larry explained; “when I started going to festivals/fiddlers conventions, that’s what it was all about, before being a performer at them it was about all our friends getting together, making a big ol’ pot of soup or something, playing a bunch of music all night and then all day, then playing all night again. That’s where you get your chops down, where you learn to play. It’s very special.” Jenny agreed “That’s a great place to go when you’re just learning, listening and absorbing and getting in to the pulse of it all, watching others, the old-timers, new-timers and everything in between, and then slowly you start picking yourself, it’s a great way to absorb it and take it further, if you want to or just enjoy it for what it’s worth. “

The band has had a busy but fun year, listing some of their highlights “we’ve had a wonderful season this year, Telluride, Grand Targhee, Music on the Mountaintop, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco was really awesome too, French Broad, Watermelon Park.”

I couldn’t resist asking for a fishing update as well, “I haven’t done as much of that as I’ve wanted to,” said Larry, “I did some out in Idaho, fly fishing. I fish every kind of way I can, I do a lot of bass fishing, I did some fishing in the Outer Banks this summer, some saltwater fishing. I caught a lot of bass in Georgia. Every chance I get, I go!”

I wondered what it was like to be on the road as a musical couple, Mark pointed out (and Larry agreed) “Jenny is the bedrock of the band, seriously, she takes care of a lot of stuff to let Larry have his creativity and she’ll let me know if I have something I need to do.” “We wouldn’t want it any other way,” explained Jenny, “we knew, one way or another, we wanted to work together
and be together, so here it is!”

When asked about the noticeable absence of a banjo in the group, Larry explained: “We had our banjo player for a while, he’s out in Colorado now, he’s restarted up his old band and we’re back to our trio that we’ve had for 10 years, and that’s our core part of the band but we have a few very special guests we like to bring in to make it a quartet. Today it was Nate Leath on the fiddle, which, he’s as great fiddler player as there is, really. We have quite a few special guests we like to get out, like Will Lee on the 5 string banjo, he’s a master and a wonderful singer too. We sort of switch it up, have trios, have a banjo or a fiddle, we like to mix it up. And I think our audience likes that. It keeps it fresh for them and it keeps it fresh for us.

When asked where their evening was headed, Larry smiled “I’m looking forward to picking with as many of these folks as I can, we don’t always get to hang out, so it’s sure nice when we do!”

Also, check out this article by Diane about the Festy itself: https://dreamspider.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/introducing-the-festy-experience/

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by Andy Lassiter, Charleston, SC

James Island  Messenger

Just a month ago, Larry Keel and his band Natural Bridge were playing a headline spot at Awendaw Green’s annual Rocktoberfest concert.  What ensued there was anything but expected.  Keel and the band invited local Charleston rockers Sol Driven Train on stage, for an extemporaneous medley of Bob Marley songs, musical interplay, and onstage antics that fired up the crowd and made for an extraordinary end to the weekend.  This kind of musical uncertainty and intensity is part of what has kept Keel in the bluegrass spotlight for over 10 years now.

A fan favorite in Charleston, Keel and the band (Mark Schimick on mandolin, Jason Flournoy on banjo, and wife Jenny Keel on upright bass) will be playing a special show at the Charleston Pour House on November 21, joined by bluegrass legend Tony Rice.  Rice has made a career of his own in the last 50 years, and played alongside legends like Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Alison Krauss, and Ricky Skaggs, to name a few.  He is easily one of the most well respected flatpickers on the scene, and will certainly add a new element to the typically high energy Larry Keel experience.

How exactly Rice influences their performance is still yet to be seen, but as usual, some surprises are guaranteed.  “It’s weird,” says banjo player Jason Flournoy, “We have a real organic approach right now.  It’s real free flowing when [Tony] gets up there.  He likes playing Larry tunes, so we write out the setlist and just wait to see what happens from there.”   It will indeed be interesting to see how the stoic Rice and sometimes unruly Keel will interact on stage.

“Larry can be anything you want him to be, wild, rowdy, intellectual, chill, what you see is what you get,” says Flournoy.  “When he’s on stage, he’s fired up, he’s just happy to be there.”

To be sure, the show will be an exciting night of high energy bluegrass.  The band has a longstanding relationship with the Pour House, and looks forward to every show in Charleston.  “The Pourhouse is just good, professional people,” says Flournoy, “We love everyone there.”  As for how it feels for the band to be sharing the stage with one of their idols, “It’s just freaky, to look over and see one of my biggest heros give me a nod to take a solo…It’s awesome.”

Show Details at a Glance:
Larry Keel and Natural Bridge with Tony Rice
Pour House
Saturday, November 21st

$18 adv & 20 dos
1977 Maybank Hwy
Charleston, SC 29412

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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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