Posts Tagged ‘Tony Rice’

Doc Watson Biography ‘Blind But Now I See’
by Kent Gustavson

A Definitive Biography of an American Icon

DocBookcover_KentG“A touching story about overcoming life’s obstacles…”
–Vintage Guitar Magazine

“Musicologists will appreciate the chapters on Doc’s singing style and guitar work… Music fans will delight in the book as a whole, a splendid recounting of Doc Watson as man whose ‘…approach to folk music on a guitar was like Horowitz’s approach to the piano…”
–Gary Presley, The Internet Review of Books

“This is a highly informative, fascinating biography of the great Doc Watson. What a life. It’s a page-turner that will keep you up past your bedtime. Don’t miss it.”
–The Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association

“This is a valuable, anecdotal work anyone interested in Doc’s music and life will enjoy reading.” –Bluegrass Unlimited

***   ***   ***

Award-winning author Kent Gustavson was born immersed in a rich musical heritage. As the son of peaceniks, he grew up with family sing-alongs. From Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan, he darted to classical, jazz, and avant-garde jazz, before circling back to the Greenwich Village folk canon and tracing that music back. In singer-guitarist Doc Watson, Gustavson found a treasure of American music. His biography of Watson, Blind But Now I See (Sumach-Red Books) is the definitive biography of an American icon.

KentWithDocBook23664The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based author is uniquely qualified to write a book that merges myth, musicology, and American history. He holds a PhD in classical composition from Stony Brook University in New York, where he taught leadership, writing, literature, music and German for ten years. He’s an active musician with 14 critically acclaimed albums, and his music has been featured on National Public Radio’s All Songs Considered. He also hosts a radio show, Sound Authors, where he has interviewed hundreds of award-winning authors and musicians.

Blind But Now I See is the first comprehensive biography of Doc Watson. It was written over 6 years, culled from meticulous archival research and well over a hundred interviews. The book brims with insights from such legendary musicians as Bela Fleck, Ben Harper, David Grisman, David Moultrup, Jerry Douglas, Jonathan Byrd, Marty Stuart, Michelle Shocked, Mike Seeger, Norman Blake, Ricky Skaggs, Tommy Emmanuel, Tony Rice, Tony Trischka, and Warren Haynes, among many others. It is a winner of a Next Generation Indie Book Award, and finalist in the Foreword Book of the Year Awards. The book has sold 5,000 paperbacks and 25,000 e-books. Vintage Guitar Magazine praises it as: “A touching story about overcoming life’s obstacles.” Blind But Now I See is now available in its expanded second printing, with a third and even more expansive edition already in the works.

Doc23447Two-time Grammy Award winner Ben Harper says in his Blind But Now I See interview: “There was a sense of grace, effortlessness, and fluidity to Doc Watson’s musicianship and singing that is nothing short of miraculous.”

Watson’s influence has been recognized by presidents and by heroes of modern music such as Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Ben Harper, Robert Plant, and Gillian Welch, but little is known about his personal life, his complex relationship with his son, Merle, his mythical rise to prominence, and his awe-inspiring musicality. Watson was a blind boy from the small town of Deep Gap, North Carolina who grew up in the Depression, then lived in abject poverty until being brought into the 1960s folk scene. For over 52 years, Watson mesmerized bluegrass, folk, and rock audiences with his soft baritone and fiery guitar licks

Gustavson’s congenial but probingly insightful interview skills help piece together a powerful and honest character mosaic. His vibrant, erudite, and enthusiastic prose demystifies Watson’s astounding musicality and dissects the paradoxes and complexities of the man with bold sensitivity.

DocandFreindJOhn23444In an interview with esteemed alt-country publication No Depression Gustavson said: “I stumbled across a copy of The Watson Family by Folkways records. Watson’s voice was so rock-solid in those family hymns that I still sing the bass part today, because it’s stronger in my mind than the melody! He pointed me towards the blues, early rock and roll, traditional Appalachian fiddle music, and balladry. He literally started a brush fire in my musical mind.”

In 2004 Gustavson began writing Blind But Now I See, and nearly 10 years later and three editions in he’s emerged an authority on the enigmatic icon. He told No Depression: “Countless close friends and family members of Doc have come to me over the past two years and thanked me for writing this biography, and for really framing the reality surrounding his life.” Besides the plaudits from insiders, the biggest reward is bringing this journey back home. “In the new edition I finally got a chance to speak to Pete Seeger,” Gustavson says. “I called my parents and told them ‘Pete Seeger just spoke to me!’ What an honor.”

Biography Written By: Lorne Behrman


Great review by Professor Puppet

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Peter Rowan and The Mosier Brothers Present “Roots and Branches”
An Eclectic A-Z Musical Journey of Songs & Stories From the Life of Peter Rowan

Wednesday, June 13th   Riverbend Festival  Chattanooga, TN
Thursday, June 14th   Pisgah Brewing   Black Mountain, NC
Friday, June 15th  The Pour House  Charleston, SC
Saturday, June 16th  The Handlebar  Greenville, SC


We are thrilled to announce Peter Rowan will be joining The Mosier Brothers for a series of select shows! Peter Rowan has played in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, with Jerry Garcia and David Grisman in the supergroup Old & In The Way, and with Tony Rice and a host of other acclaimed musicians throughout his storied career. Now, the Grammy winner joins The Mosier Brothers, the Atlanta band that evolved from the psychedelic hick-hop jamgrass band, Blueground Undergrass.

Rowan says, “I am always ready to collaborate with Jeff Mosier and his fine musicians, to explore the musical tree of Americana-bluegrass roots. We might even find some new branches on the old tree! We can harvest new fruit from old roots!”

Jeff Mosier and Peter Rowan met in 1985 on Mosier’s radio show in Atlanta. Since 1998 they have shared the stage together many times including Suwannee Springfest and Magnolia Festival in Live Oak, Florida. Rowan has always been a key figure in The Mosier Brothers career giving them what Mosier calls “the inspiration to fly between the extremes of traditional and progressive bluegrass music styles, even entering into psychedelic jamgrass and rock.”

The Mosier Brothers, originally from Bristol, Tennessee, have always maintained their “brother sound” amid their various configurations. The solid band sound that Rowan had heard from them over the years, along with their collective stage experience, eclectic musical taste, and genre bending tendencies, created the perfect creative soil in which to forge ahead with a project which both Mosier and Rowan had been thinking about for years. Johnny Mosier’s ability to switch-hit between playing bluegrass with flatpick style guitar, to rock, swing, and jazz on electric guitar, along with Jeff’s unique ability to compose “pick and jam” rock songs on the banjo, are the true ingredients of the “Mosier sound.”

Johnny and Jeff Mosier. Photo by Ian Rawn.

Veterans of the jamband and jamgrass scenes, The Mosier Brothers have been entertaining audiences for over 30 years (longer if you consider pickin’ on the front porch with their family), first with the bluegrass band Good Medicine for 23 years. In the late 1980’s, Jeff Mosier got his first experience playing Rock on the cutting edge of the newly developing jamband scene as a founding member of Col. Bruce Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit, the band that gave him the stage name “Rev.” In 1994 he toured with Phish and tutored them in the ways of bluegrass. The Phish Companion writes “Perhaps no guest artist has had as great an influence on the band’s music as the Rev. Jeff Mosier…”. The brothers re-joined in 1998 in Jeff Mosier’s first nationally known brainchild, Blueground Undergrass, one of the earliest bands to merge bluegrass instruments and traditional tunes with the magnetic energy of Rock n Roll. Then, in 2010, they formed The Mosier Brothers which more finely blends the traditional bluegrass sound of Good Medicine and the jamming of Blueground Undergrass into a more song-driven Americana roots rock unit, all while remaining an eclectic endeavor.

For these “Roots and Branches” shows, Peter Rowan and The Mosier Brothers will be performing an A-Z retrospective of Rowan’s musical career.

Peter Rowan. Photo by Ronald Rietman.

The band will take the audience on a musical journey that builds throughout the evening, starting with the traditional bluegrass of Rowan’s days with Bill Monroe in the 1960’s, then leading into the progressive bluegrass years of Old and In The Way, Crucial Country, and The Free Mexican Air Force. The result: a night of life-affirming songs with rich melodies and harmonies, all led by the compelling stories of Peter Rowan that will serve as the backdrop for each musical number. Of that, Mosier says, “I think people really want and need to hear ‘songs’ now more than ever, and more importantly, the stories that inspired them.”

Mosier continues, “We can go anywhere Peter wants to go musically with this show, because his career helped mold our own musical taste. He’s been such a major influence on us. He’s like our Bill Monroe and Beatles all in one. The Monroe generation of players spawned the Rowan generation, and the Rowan generation spawned the Mosier generation, no doubt.”

Johnny Mosier adds, “After years of enjoying Rowan’s music from the audience, to actually perform with him on stage is a true joy and career high for me.”

Peter Rowan and The Mosier Brothers will be both acoustic and electric for each performance, as will their band of Kris Dale on bass, Edward Hunter on fiddle, and Will Groth on drums. The Rowan/Mosier recipe will give the songs a new spin while keeping the original flavor, in what promises to be one of the tastiest of musical collaborations.


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LEAF Set Times and Stages:
10/20 9:00pm @ Eden Hall
10/21 6:30pm @ Roots Family Stage
10/21 11:30pm @ Eden Hall
For more information on The Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, NC please visit theleaf.org


Much like the earthly element from which they draw their name, the story of Songs Of Water ebbs and flows, pulsing with life, beauty and energy. Beginning in 2002, Songs Of Water started as a loose community of friends centered on writing and experimenting with different sounds and instrumentation. Most of the music was off-the-cuff improvisation that later grew and matured into completed composition.

That attention to the natural flow and feel of music even extended to the make-up of the group itself, as the membership rose to as many as ten and fell to as little as three, depending on the needs of the music. Stephen Roach (vocals, guitar, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, percussion, tenor banjo) revels in the “cross pollination” found within the band’s members and their individual talents. “One of the unique qualities about the band is that most of our backgrounds are very different than one another.”

Luke Skaggs (violin, guitar, lap steel, percussion, backing vocals) and Molly Skaggs (vocals, accordian, banjo) grew up with bluegrass in their blood, thanks to Ricky Skaggs being their dad. Roach’s own heritage came from his father and from his cousin, acclaimed bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice.

Marta Richardson (violin) and Sarah Stephens (cello, vocals) are both classically trained musicians who have played in symphonies. The line-up is completed by Jason Windsor (classical, acoustic & baritone guitar, mandolin), Greg Willette (bass guitar, acoustic guitar), and Michael Pritchard (drums, percussion, hammered dulcimer, acoustic guitar).

So what ultimately binds this collective of extraordinary musicians together? According to Roach, “we discovered it was really fun to play this sort of cinematic, explorative music in a live setting. It flies so contrary to what you hear in most live music settings. The music pulls you into a deeper, perhaps even spiritual experience.”

Shutter 16 goes on to say, “Songs of Water’s musical range, not only instrumentally but vocally as well, is an elaborate production of many skilled musicians. If Hollywood decides to revisit Last of the Mohican’s or another similar tale as they look for more stories they can just reshoot in IMAX 3D, I fully expect SoW to be the featured sound-track artist as Linkin Park was to Transformers. Songs of Water is not something to miss.”

Their newest release, “The Sea Has Spoken,” is a true collaboration of all members, arrangements with textures woven together by everyone in the band. Their focus on mostly instrumental music comes from the power that sound without words wields over all of us. By leaving aside traditional lyrics, Songs Of Water’s music encompasses the listener, leading them to reconsider music, life and exploration anew. Their music becomes an interactive canvas, inviting all who hear to joy in the act of creation corporately.

“The band’s music feels primitive but forward-thinking, exotic yet familiar; it creates a complete narrative in the listener’s mind with rarely a word sung. Essentially, their music is transportive,”says Ryan Snyder with Shuffle Magazine. Alli Marshal with the Mountain Xpresssays, “The whole record ebbs and flows with graceful gestures, sweeping strokes of light and dark, complex layering and effortless playing… the collection as a whole is so engaging that, surely, to see the musicians in action would only add to the experience.”

Ultimately, the impetus for the band’s existence is the desire to share that transcendent experience with others. The members of Songs Of Water stumbled onto a new form of expression that connected with audiences, spurring them on to further innovations. Hungry to engage even more, they are now pursuing this path to see where the road might lead. As Roach puts it, “Water can be a peaceful stream or it can be a violent tsunami. Our music has that same tendency from moment to moment. It may be a contemplative classical guitar one moment or a raging orchestra of percussion the next.”

And thus flows Songs Of Water, roaming wide and far to pull its listeners in with tendrils of music and beauty.

“Although listeners will hear more than 30 instruments on the new album — from dun duns to doumbeks — the songs still ring familiar. Traditional sounds from the hammered dulcimer, banjo, and acoustic guitar reflect North Carolina’s musical roots. All the musicians credit their North Carolina heritage for influencing their music.”
Carole Perkins – Our State Magazine

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Check out this great article about the inaugural Infamous Stringdusters Festival, The Festy, that took place this past weekend in Nelson County, VA.   Diane Wildman Farineau is the author and Milo Farineau is the photographer that took this amazing shot!  The two of them have joined forces with Chester Simpson Photography and are working on a book called, The Festival Project to document the music festival lifestyle and to chronicle all types of music festivals, with an emphasis on the revival of bluegrass music... Also click here for Diane’s complete interview with Larry Keel and Natural Bridge at the Festy!

Introducing The Festy

by Diane Wildman Farineau

Incredible music, a breathtaking venue and promotional visionaries got married about a year ago and gave birth to a baby this weekend and its name is The Festy.

The first cries issued forth from this newborn on Saturday, October 9th on the double stages in front of the Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, in beautiful Nelson County, Virginia were soft and sweet, with performances by Sarah Siskind, Robinella and Crooked Still, but as the evening and weekend progressed, the cries turned lusty and ferocious culminating with stage thumping and fist pumping performances by the Infamous Stringdusters (the event’s curators and hosts) and Railroad Earth.

Like most newborns, this baby didn’t get much sleep this weekend, as the jams went on well into the wee hours both on stage and in the form of impromptu campfire performances throughout the campground. “I was walking back through the camp zone after it got dark and I saw all these fires, and heard the sounds of picking and people hanging out and that’s a big piece of the whole puzzle that makes a great vibe,” said Stringdusters guitarist, Andy Falco, “there are not enough facial expressions that we can make to show how excited we are about this festival.”

That the award winning Stringdusters could line up a few friends to “gig for a weekend” wouldn’t surprise anyone. The true indicator of success, however, lay not only in the breadth of talent represented, but also its depth. Included in the line up were legendary flat pickers Larry Keel and Tony Rice. The crowd was in awe, as were a number of the performers. Said Keel about their involvement: “We were called by the Stringdusters and they said they were having a festival up here…I couldn’t believe it, I love playing in the hills of Virginia, and they said they really wanted us to be a part of it, so we worked it out and we’re real glad we did.”

Unlike some festival events, where bands roll in and roll out in a dizzying cloud of dust, the goal of these organizers was to create an environment and a vibe where performers would want to stick around, not only to catch up with friends, but also to sit in and jam with one another, something so many love to do, but for which they don’t always find the opportunity. Said Jenny Keel; “The hanging out factor was good. Having the band mastermind it all had a great impact and a very positive one.” There was a veritable love-fest backstage, between artists, organizers, the production team, and volunteers and this vibe flowed from behind the curtain out across the stage and into the crowd which sang and danced their hearts out for two full days and nights. Said Allan “El Ron” Ronquillo, promoter from Running Smooth and good friend of Railroad Earth “When an event is done well like this, everyone, from the band to the fans, walks away feeling empowered.”

More than just a concert, the Festy was designed as a lifestyle, wellness and music experience. In addition to music, the event hosted both a trail running and mountain bike race on the two mornings. Yoga classes were free and available to all participants. A climbing wall, massage therapists, a host of food and beverage vendors, instrument workshops and educational workshops on environmental sustainability were all in the mix. “What we’re doing here” said Michael Allenby, (owner of The Artist Farm, and event co-producer) “is creating an experience for people who love the outdoor culture.” Said Devils Backbone Brewing Company owner and venue developer, Steve Crandall, “we’ve done a lot of work to point event participants in the direction of local resources here, we’re about creating sustainability.” With crisp fall weather and access to hiking and biking trails, participants took full advantage of what the area had to offer. “People come to this area and fall in love with it instantaneously, we can’t manufacture or fabricate any of these mountains around us, that’s their dream, the Blue Ridge Mountains, when folks pull in here…..it’s overwhelming ” said the event’s production company, Cerberus’s co-owner, Justin Billcheck.

Great time, great music, great location, this nascent event just knocked it right out of the park. Go ahead and mark your calendars, this baby will turn one next year on October 8 & 9, 2011 and that’s going to be a birthday party no one should miss!

Click here for the post on the Bluegrass Blog with more photos from Milo and here for photos from the Festy staff photog Tom Daly.

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March 03, 2010 @ 10:35 PM


The Herald-Dispatch


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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with special guests GRAYSON CAPPS & GUTHRIE TRAPP

Date: Thursday, January 21, 2010
Venue: The Bama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL
Doors @ 7PM

Artist and Event Information

7:00pm Fresh & Local acoustic showcase
7:30pm The Newgrass Troubadours
8:30pm Grayson Capps with Guthrie Trapp
9:45pm Larry Keel & Natural Bridge with Tony Rice
11:20pm Encore Jam Ensemble

**Advance tickets ($21 adv/$26 door) available online through Brown Paper Tickets

EYE DAWG Productions and Birmingham’s WWMM 100.5 Live Radio Ad for the Tony Rice & Larry Keel Show on Jan 21, 2010 in Tuscaloosa Alabama… and some great music too! Take a listen in at the Reverbnation widget!

EYE DAWG Productions is proud to bring one of the most exciting combinations in the world of bluegrass and acoustic music to The Bama Theater on January 21st. It will be a stringed-showdown of epic proportions, combining energies of flat-pick guitar masters TONY RICE & LARRY KEEL and NATURAL BRIDGE.

The night will begin with a band set by rising southern song writer and roots artist Grayson Capps with the Master of all things stringed, Guthrie Trapp. Both will be featured guests in the encore jam ensemble, to include all the players that we have on hand. There will also be a late night party hosted by local favorites Shaglo at The Mellow Mushroom that will start shortly after the music ends at The Bama (around midnight). You can get latest on all EYE DAWG events at www.EYEDAWG.com.

EYE DAWG continues its pledge to serve the Tuscaloosa community with information and participation on our Tuscaloosa FRESH & LOCAL event program. Our sponsors and FRESH & LOCAL partners will have a major presence at this event and we continue to focus on ways to produce events that work together with emphasis on community. Tuscaloosa FRESH & LOCAL aims to bring local music, arts and foods together with local businesses to shed light and celebrate green and healthy living.

Read more about each band and the event at:

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An Interview with Larry Keel

November 25th, 2009 | Posted by: Robie

Leeway’s Homegrown Music Network


Flatpicking bluegrass guitar phenomenon Larry Keel has been burning up the stage for 20 years, playing with Magraw Gap, the Larry Keel Experience, Keller & the Keels, and countless others. Keel came to Raleigh, NC’s Lincoln Theater recently with special guest Tony Rice sitting in. Paul Kerr sat down with Larry for the Homegrown Music Network to talk bluegrass, fishing, moonshine, and more.
By Paul Kerr

HGMN: You just did the Big Bass and Bluegrass fishing festival. How did that go?

LK: It was great. It’s down in the middle of Georgia. It’s a pristine private lake down there so it creates sort of a festival atmosphere which is nice. It combines a lot of fishing of course, cause it’s such good fishing, but it also combines music workshops every day. So we do a workshop each day that’s two and a half, three hours long, sort of an official workshop where we’re all seated around a circle with the students. It’s basically a way to learn how to play music with other people, which is so handy to learn.

HGMN: Because everyone plays in their living room but they’re intimidated.

LK: Yeah, and this does give them the confidence. At a certain point it’s coming around the circle to you. “Ok, do you wanna do this? What do you wanna play?” It gives the students a chance to play music that other people bring to the table that they wouldn’t know, so it’s a real learning experience. And the rest of the time it’s just great. We have fish fries from the fish we catch. There’s always something great to eat there. The catering is just fantastic country food. And then we play music practically all night long, so it’s a good deal. We’re gonna get ready for 2010 and do some more of them too.

HGMN: I was reading an article online from 1880 about the philosophy of fishing, and it reminded me of music in a way. It said fishing is the pursuit of the unknown and unseen.

LK: “The unknown and unseen.” Man, that is so real. That’s the way it is to me – that connection. Because in playing music we definitely improvise like crazy all over the place and that leads into the unknown for sure. And fishing for sure is like that. Every cast, you never know, you might get the world record.

HGMN: You might find your boots.

LK: Absolutely. For me, I get off the road, fishing is one of the greatest ways to clear your head out after playing so many notes and just having your head occupied by stuff all the time. I can go fishing and that’s all I think about is fishing.

HGMN: Do you play music in the boat?

LK: Oh yeah, we’ll bring a guitar, a fiddle. My buddy’s a great fiddler. We’ve got a good boat banjo too. Get out there and when the fishing gets slow or when you just need some inspiration, whip ’em out and pick one, you know? Plus it’s awesome on the water to do that.

HGMN: You must get some great pictures.

Yeah, we’ve got some good video. I’ve got a website I’m launching. It’s called Fishin’ and Pickin’, and it’s all fishing musicians from all over the place. I’ve got some Alaska footage, some footage from Belize, Idaho, Montana, Hatteras, just all kinds, from fishing musicians sending me pictures and videos of what they do. Then on the music side, the pickin’ side, the website will have tablature and music links and all of our new music that we’re releasing will be on there as well. So that’s where you’ll go to get our new music – to Larry Keel’s Fishin’ and Pickin’ website. It’s a cool, cool thing. We’ve got some promise of a cable show to do about it. So we’re putting together a lot of plans. 2010 should be really good. Trying to stay out there, get the word out and do something new too.

HGMN: You’ve got to be active to keep your fanbase thinking about your act.

LK: Definitely. I do a lot of different things too, try to touch a lot of different crowds with my music. I’ll be doing some shows with Adam Aijala from Yonder Mountain out in the Pacific Northwest in December. They’ve got a big thing going on out there. Adam’s always been just a great friend and a colleague as well, as far as trading licks with him and everything. He’s a great player. It’s good for us to get together and be able to do something different. Getting to play with Tony Rice tonight, it’s always an honor and just ultra-special, every time, every note really. He’s always been my hero, so it’s like a dream come true really.

HGMN: How did you meet him?

LK: I met him a few years ago at different times. I was an aspiring young guitar player and different friends of his would introduce me to him. I don’t think he remembered me, he probably meets a million people like that, but I remember it (laughing). But then we did a few tours together where we’d do three or four shows in a row and then the next weekend we’d do three or four shows. Started getting to know each other a lot like that. And playing with Vassar Clements in the band as well at the same time, so it was Tony and Vassar just really mixing it up.

HGMN: You grew up with that music all around you, but to find yourself with the people from those records next to you…

Oh yeah, there’s that sound, right here in my ear, right beside me. Going to the point about keeping your fanbase interested and excited about what you do – I think a lot of that works for us, getting Tony to play with us and doing the shows with Adam and we’ve got some things we’re getting ready to do with Keller Williams too. So that’s a great, different crowd for us to touch with our stuff. Jenny [Keel, Larry’s wife and bassist] and I are going to be part of Acoustic Syndicate basically in December for a couple of shows, cause they needed a bass player and I know all their material so it’s just like falling off a log for me. I love it. What other band do I get to do that with, you know? So that’s what we try to do, just keep the audience guessing. It’s so much fun for us too. You’ve got to do everything you can these days to get the word out there, and you’re still not sure if they’re going to come out.

HGMN: I came up with a great idea. Maybe you’ve heard of this, but I don’t see why you can’t build a fishing rod into a guitar. So you can be playing and then you feel the bite – “Do I go for the fish? I’m playing this great solo, but…”

LK: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. (laughing) I tell ya, that would be excellent. I’ve played parties or weddings where the lake’s right behind me and I was like, man if I could just set my fishing pole right here on the stage. If I had it attached to my guitar – I’ve thought about that. Yeah, tie on some fishing line or something.

I was reading about the history of the Blue Ridge Mountain area. You grew up in that traditional atmosphere. Did you have moonshiners in your family?

LK: Yup, I got an uncle that messes around with it. But my granddaddy, he made the finest there was down in his stretch of the woods down in Dickinson County. Even during Prohibition, the government bought his liquor cause his was proofed so high. I guess they were buying it for themselves pretty much. They had a contract basically to buy twenty gallons at a time, and that fed his family. It really did at that point cause he worked in the mines, but still he had a big family. Like today, basically you got to do anything you can to make it roll – people working hard. Yeah, he was good at what he did and I’m thankful for it. And I guess I’ve got it in my veins cause I’ve loved it all my life, and it just seems to come and find me. It’s a good problem and a bad problem. (laughing)

Depends what time of day it is.

LK: Oh yeah, it definitely does. Definitely.

HGMN: The traditional music fans you grew up with – do they like new, progressive bluegrass?

LK: Bluegrass is a strange sort of deal because bluegrass by its own standards is probably made up of a lot of extreme purists, which is all great and that’s what keeps classical music known and jazz music and blues and bluegrass and everything. But the way I see it, you like what you like, but at the same time the music has to grow at some point. I’m not into everybody sounding exactly the same to sell a million records. “Because this band sounded like that, if we try to sound like that and look like that maybe we’ll sell a million records.” And that’s the way the music industry works. I was told by a very reputed national person, “Come on up into the fifty-story record company and they’ll buy you a good pair of boots and a pair of tight jeans and get you a haircut and could make anybody a star.”

But bluegrass isn’t meant to be that way. Yeah, it’s been made into a business and it’s growing as an industry, but the music should speak for itself. And there are bands out there that are, like Steep Canyon Rangers, just true sounding bands that are not trying to sound like anybody else, like Del McCoury Band. I won’t mention the names that aren’t doing it, but I’m sure anyone that follows the subject would know what I’m talking about.

I’m like that. I’ve always loved bluegrass, and I try to play my bluegrass pure and with respect to the writers, but I’ve got a lot of music in me. I love reggae, I love jazz, I love rock and roll, I love blues. I got to let it out too. And it might come out in a bluegrass flavor but you can tell there’s something weird going on there. That’s what I say – you’ve got to sort of let it all breathe and grow. Everything’s got to grow or it’s gonna die, you know? That’s the way I look at it. Cause a lot of the old fellows from bluegrass who wrote all this and played that are passing on, and I hate that. But who’s gonna take it on from there? There’s got to be a new generation. I want it to be respectful but yet grow. Bluegrass for the year 2010. Pretty wild concept.

In jazz and bluegrass, the best players get together a lot – it’s not about bands so much. In rock, if two guitarists get together it’s instantly legendary because it hardly ever happens, but the Traveling Wilburys happens every day in the bluegrass world.

LK: That’s the way it is. People that hear bluegrass remember it from either hearing it around a fireside or in somebody’s living room, and it was always that same sort of thing. “Oh, so and so over here is a great player, you guys really need to meet him.” A lot of that. And it’s a small world too, in bluegrass. You’re bound to meet each other at some point. It’s just hospitable, too. “Come on, let’s play some music together. Let’s hear what you’ve got.” I’ve been to so many crazy places that you would never figure there’s anybody that ever listens to bluegrass, and all of a sudden here comes someone out of the woodwork – “I play a banjo!” “Oh really? Let’s play a tune.” It’s good to see how its been passed around and grown.

HGMN: If Bela Fleck can come from Brooklyn, they must be everywhere.

LK: Absolutely. There’s a guy that’s pushed it all the way to the edge of how far you can take it. It’s just cause he’s heard so many things, being in that city, that’s what he’s been influenced by. You might not call it bluegrass, but it comes from there. Amazing, amazing.

HGMN: You did a stint at Tokyo Disneyland when you were young.

LK: In Tokyo there were some great musicians. Big jazz scene there, man. Really cool. Really good jazz players. I’d go out to these bars and listen to the jazz musicians, students of Oscar Peterson and older cats that played with Mingus. It was just great. But over there it was interesting to see how bluegrass had spread, because obviously after World War II there were banjos and guitars and mandolins and fiddles that had been left or traded and became popular with a lot of the Japanese musicians. There are some Japanese bluegrass musicians that are absolutely amazing. A lot of them have been involved in bluegrass I guess since the ’40s. Great bands. Bluegrass 45 was one of them. Just fabulous stuff. They’re really working it. But yeah, we did this with Tokyo Disneyland. It’s a great gig to have at 18 years old. We did six half hour shows a day, which was a half hour on, half hour off. It really worked great. It was just fascinating to them basically that we would play in cowboy hats and flannel shirts and cowboy boots.

HGMN: And did anyone ever really wear that?

LK: Oh, hell no, not really. I mean, cowboys wear it, you know? I ain’t a cowboy and I don’t know any cowboys that play bluegrass. They play Western swing. But that’s what their impression of it all was. It was great. Great way to get your chops up. They’d let us basically play what we wanted to as long as we played a “Red River Valley” every now and then or “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” something familiar. “Rocky Top” of course, that was popular. It was great. At 18 years old I was a hillbilly. I’d never really been out of Virginia. I went to Florida to audition with my buddy and then we went straight to Tokyo and just, “Wow, this is pretty crazy.” But we got a lot of respect. It was a great country, really. The way it was run was the cleanest country I’ve ever seen and just efficient. It’s just amazing. A really good time if you ever get a chance to go, that’s for sure. Safe as it gets.

HGMN: If you had to pick one, what’s the best concert that you ever saw?

LK: For just the general life-changing thing I would say The Grateful Dead in Cincinnati. That’s the only time I ever saw them. I saw the Jerry band, which was life-changing too, like four shows in a row. But I got to see the Dead once in Cincinnati. I think it was ’89, pretty sure about that. You never forget it, you know what I mean? You hear all you want but till you go see the whole thing and experience it all…

And that’s the only time you got to see them?

LK: That’s the only time I got to. I had a million chances but at the same time I was going out and seeing Tony Rice who was life-changing for me, a great guitar player. He’s a statue of the way it should be. So I spent my time going and seeing him. I was a heavy metal freak too. I used to like Judas Priest and stuff like that. Took a lot of that in. Took in a lot of foreign concerts – Irish and just all kinds of things, Italian music, just anything I could get a hold of, really. But yeah, that Dead show was pretty much a change of the way you look at things, all the way around – musically, everything. It was beautiful.

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by —Andrew Ritchey

published in www.indyweek.com

From: Natural Bridge, Va.
Since: 2004
Claim to fame: Looking back to bluegrass

Larry Keel’s baritone rumbles with a timeless gravitas that is the shared voice of railroad steel drivers, traveling hoboes and modern mechanics. Rhythmic mandolin drives the songs, and vocal harmonies cry out like train whistles. The deep sound is beholden, but not bound, to bluegrass, and it bristles with excitement. Banjo solos break out between dingy verses. Keel is one of the premier flatpicking guitar players, but he’ll be given a run for his money at LINCOLN THEATRE, as the legendary Tony Rice joins in for the show. $14-$24/ 9 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey

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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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Larry Keel and Natural Bridge with Tony Rice

Pushing the boundaries of both bluegrass music and their instruments; two of the most innovative and influential bluegrass flatpickers around, Larry Keel and Tony Rice, are teaming up for a few fall shows.

LKNB on the web: www.larrykeel.com

Tony Rice: www.tonyrice.com

Friday, November 20th at the Lincoln Theater
8pm, 919-828-4444
126 E. Cabarrus Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Saturday, November 21st at the Pour House
10:30pm, 843-571-4343
1977 Maybank Hwy
Charleston, SC 29412

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