Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

Larry Keel
Flatpicking guitar master Larry Keel is a dedicated force in preserving and creating American Mountain Music. Delivering powerful and honest performances, Keel and his new 4-piece bluegrass band Natural Bridge are a breathe of fresh air in the traditional bluegrass market of today, paying their deepest and dearest respects to the forefathers of bluegrass who laid down the laws of how it should be played and sung- with joy, and from the heart. Following the role models of such legends as the Stanley Brothers, Jim and Jesse, Flat and Scruggs, Reno and Smiley, and Bill Monroe, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge includes Larry Keel on guitar and vocals, Mark Schimick on mandolin and vocals, Andy Thorne on banjo and Jenny Keel on bass and vocals.

Jenny Keel met her soon-to-be-husband, Larry, while attending a bluegrass show in Lexington, Virginia where she has lived since 1985. For years a devoted volunteer and staff worker at various music festivals and venues in the Shenandoah Valley, Jenny has always been active in supporting the bluegrass and Old Time music scene. Meeting Larry and his talented group of musician-friends sparked the latent ability in Jenny to play upright bass. Now she has been playing bass with her husband and virtually all of his specialty projects for over 8 years, and has advanced into a player known for impeccable timing and solid, yet imaginative bass lines. She also adds much of the tenor harmonies to the band's vocal pieces.

Mark Schimick was raised in central North Carolina and frequently visited his extended family in Southwestern Virginia (the same area where Larry Keel's family originates). Like Keel, Mark was exposed at an early age to the music of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and by listening to Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs on the radio and in family members' record collections, Mark became familiar with the songs and stylings of bluegrass. Mark's early love of this music stayed with him as he pursued formal musical training in sacred choir singing and classical piano. Mark has been playing the mandolin for nine years and he has rapidly advanced to one of the most versatile and fiery pickers on the acoustic music scene. Moreover, Mark has a clear and powerful singing voice, reminiscent of the best of the first-generation, high-lonesome style bluegrass singers.

At the age of 22, Andy Thorn has been a banjoist for nearly ten years. While attending the University of North Carolina, he was a driving force in the Big Fat Gap band. In the summer of 2003, he teamed up with the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band and extensively toured the Rockies. That year he was awarded first place in the banjo contest at the renowned RockyGrass Festival in Lyons, CO. His participation also helped the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band take first place in the band competition at that same festival. Andy is currently finishing his last year of studies at UNC with a focus on jazz guitar.

Larry Keel has had for a very long time a very clear vision of what he wants to do with his musical talents, and the guiding principle is this: to nurture and preserve our American musical heritage while letting it inspire Keel's own original writing and playing. As he pays his deepest respects to the masters who invented bluegrass, Keel has become a master himself of bluegrass, as well as of his own music. Larry Keel is a true heir to the bluegrass legacy, and his talents as a guitar genius, as an innovative and expressive singer-songwriter and as a bandleader place him amongst the best of the purveyors of American Mountain Music.

Organizational News

  • Larry Keel's release Journey was rated as the #7 bluegrass album of the year by the listeners of the world renowned public radio station WNCW. It was rated #71 in the poll of all albums released in 2004.

  • Long Way Round, a release by Acoustic Syndicate in which Larry Keel wrote the title track for, was ranked as #6 in all albums released in 2004 by WNCW listeners across the world.

  • 3 Sold Out shows in the month of December, including the Fox Theater in Boulder and the Grey Eagle Music Hall in Asheville, NC

  • Larry Keel and Natural Bridge have recorded the band's debut album and it will be released in late March. Watch for national release information as well as a support tour.

  • Keel Brothers, Vol. 2 will be released in late April 2004. This guitar duet featuring Larry Keel and his older brother Gary is a follow-up to their phenomenal debut release in late 2004.

  • Keller and the Keels on the Couch, Feb 4, 2005 at the Ramshead in Annapolis. This incredible evening will feature an all-star three piece band with guitar virtuosos Larry Keel and Keller Williams along side the rock steady, Jenny Keel. Larry and Keller grew up together in Northern Virginia and they frequently look for ways to reconnect.

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  • [Published on: 1/6/05]

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