With a rich background in Appalachia, and years of picking their own brand of vivid bluegrass blended jam music, it is undeniable that The Larry Keel Experience is one of the most lively acts on the festival scene today. Attendees at their Jefferson Theater show in Charlottesville, Virginia last Friday got a heaping helping of trademark Keel music. After quick opening sets from experimental newgrass group, P-Grass and Richmond roots-rock band Wrinkle Neck Mules, the crowd was riled and ready for The Experience.
Before they came to the stage, I was able to meet with the Experience members. Banjo player Will Lee, bassist Jenny Keel, and the eponymous guitar player himself were getting ready backstage when I had the chance to sit down and ask Larry a few questions.
Here’s what he had to say.
I hear you recently did some musical collaborations out in Colorado. Could you tell us about that?
“Yeah, at the beginning of March I did a collaboration with two members of The Yonder Mountain String Band, Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufmann, and two others from The Elephant Revival; Bridget Law and Bonnie Paine. Also Drew Emmitt and Andy Thorn from Leftover Salmon .It was great! We all got together a day or two beforehand and we had all been emailing each other and sharing songs and brushing up on everything. We got to work out a couple nights worth of good music. It was really good and artistic and we really got to showcase every band’s music .. just kind of sized down. That was really fun, they were all real good folk.
A week ago I did a collaboration with The Infamous Stringdusters members, Chris Pandolfi, and Andy Hall, then Sam Grisman on bass and Sam Bush on mandolin. Man, it was awesome, really high energy. And I was really having to stay on top of the game with picking because there are some mighty players there. We got joined by Emily Clark, a blues singer out that way, and by Fareed haque who used to have Garage Majal. Getting to play to the Colorado crowds was just really cool. They came out ready for it and really supported it in full force.”
Speaking of collaborations, I hear you guys are putting an album together, and that there are going to be some big names on there that we don’t quite know yet?
“Yeah we’re working on it, there are gonna be some good names on there, I’ll drop a few… We’re going to have Sam Bush on it, and Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, Keller Williams and many more. We’re really excited about it. Hopefully it’ll be out by the holidays this year, December.”
Fantastic! And to my understanding, having seen and listened to you guys for years that you are far from traditional bluegrass and I hear that with this new album you guys are trying to move even farther away from that?
“I don’t know I think it just seems to happen naturally. I think we all just hear music in our heads that isn’t bluegrass, and that’s all good. I mean I love bluegrass and it pours out of me, but there’s a lot of other stuff in there too.“
Any sounds you can tell us we’re going to be hearing in particular?
“Oh you’re going to her some happy sounds and some scary sounds and some really loud sounds and some confusing sounds too. There’s gonna be a little of all of it.”
With spring having sprung, and festival season on its way, are there any upcoming events that you want to tell us about?
“Yeah man, a ton of festivals year, a lot of them in Virginia. I know we’re doing the Graves Mountain Festival at the end of May, the Aiken Fest in South Carolina, which is a really good festival. There are so many it’s hard to think of all of them. We’re doing Festy, Floydfest, Delfest. We really just can’t wait. We’re doing the Rise Festival in Colorado, that’ll be a good one too. We’re doing Boats and Bluegrass up in Michigan which they say is really beautiful. There’s really a lot, so yeah just come out and check it. It’s great to get outside and raise some air and raise some hell, you know?”
I think we do Larry. I can hardly contain my excitement. So many upcoming shows and a new album featuring a cornucopia of musical masters is enough to make any right minded fan ecstatic, and with every foot-stomping, grooving piece of strange jam music the Keel’s played throughout their set that night, I can’t help but look brightly towards the group’s future.