Larry Keel

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

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Between the late '90s and 2000, Larry Keel and a number of friends cut a series of well-made progressive acoustic albums featuring his gruff vocals and fancy flat picking. These albums had the same loose, freewheeling mindset as the best of '70s newgrass, commingling jazz, folk, and even reggae to create a heady mix. Larry Keel and Natural Bridge brings forth the same instrumental flair while leaving behind the more experimental elements of Keel's earlier work. That means most of the eclectic elements have been submerged in favor of fairly straightforward bluegrass. Keel is joined by bassist Jenny Keel, banjoist Andy Thorn, and mandolinist Mark Schimick on 14 traditional-based songs and instrumentals. Energy-wise, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge is much more exciting and better produced than a number of current bluegrass albums by bands with higher profiles. Part of the energy comes from the sparkling instrumental leads and fills, plus the band's off-the-cuff vocal style. But perhaps more important is the fact that the production never attempts to concoct a smooth, radio-friendly sound. Fans of Keel's former albums may find Larry Keel and Natural Bridge fairly conservative and predictable, but anyone who has grown sick of cookie-cutter bluegrass will find the album a lively affair.

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