Larry Keel at The Pour House, Charleston SC 2/27/09
Larry Keel is a monster guitarist who’s comfortable in whatever venue or aggregation he finds himself in, whether it’s playing with Keller Williams in front of thousands or in a small jam-friendly room like the Pour House, on James Island near Charleston, South Carolina. On this particular night it was his “bluegrass” band Natural Bridge serving as the conduit for Keel’s musical manipulations.
Billed as his “traditional” bluegrass band, the acoustic quartet might not pass muster with fans of Ralph Stanley or Bill Monroe; the jam-heavy instrumental tunes are closer to Phish at times than to fiddle-friendly numbers.
Get past the nontraditional aspect of the music being made with mandolin, banjo, guitar, and upright bass, however, and the group offers up plenty of rewards for close listeners. The solo-trading by all four musicians was a constant throughout the evening, and the set was heavy with instrumentals that offered plenty of chances for them to stretch out on both older material and songs from their brand new album Backwoods.
The Pour House is a jam-rock home base for many bands, and they also roll out the welcome mat for progressive bluegrass acts, so Keel’s a natural fit for the kind of crowd usually present on any given Friday night, and on this night the crowd was up close and personal, watching the fingers flying as the notes launched themselves off the stage.