Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Larry Keel: “Experienced” (2016) CD Review

You are probably familiar with Larry Keel for his work with Keller Williams in Keller & The Keels. And Keller Williams joins him on one track on Larry’s new studio CD, Experienced. This is an excellent album of all original material, written by Larry Keel and long-time collaborator Will Lee. The band on this one is Larry Keel on guitar and vocals, Jenny Keel on upright bass and vocals, and Will Lee on banjo and vocals. Will Lee has been playing with Larry Keel since the early days of Magraw Gap. In addition to Keller Williams, this disc features guest appearances by Sam Bush, Peter Rowan and Del McCoury.

It gets off to a wild, energetic start with a fantastic bluegrass instrumental tune, “Ripchord,” written by Will Lee. Seriously, this track kind of blew me away. It features the amazing Sam Bush (of New Grass Revival) on both mandolin and fiddle. There is some phenomenal playing here, and this song isn’t one of those bluegrass tunes that are just about playing fast. This tune takes us in some interesting directions. It’s followed by “Lil Miss,” a cool tune with a rough, bluesy vibe. “You seem so hypnotized/Wrapped up in your little lies/The truth’s so far away/All night had nothing to say.” This one was written by Larry Keel, as was the following track, “Memories,” which is one of my personal favorites. It has a sweeter, more intimate folk feel, with a wonderful vocal performance. This song stood out for me the first time I listened to this disc, and each time through it seems to hit me even harder. “Memories taking me by surprise/Long lost ties/Through this day’s eyes/Wake up and start another day/Full of memories.” This is a song that has been around a little while; the Larry Keel Experience released a video for it in October of 2014.

Del McCoury joins them on vocals for “Fill ‘Em Up Again,” a fun, positive tune written by Will Lee. Jason Carter (from The Del McCoury Band) plays fiddle, and Mike Guggino (from Steep Canyon Rangers) plays mandolin. There is a lot of joy in this music, and it should make you feel good. Then Keller Williams joins them on mandola and vocals for “Miles And Miles.” This track has a more serious tone. “The illusion is only a fool’s game/But life goes on/And on and on.

Peter Rowan joins Larry Keel for “The Warrior.” Peter Rowan was one of the first bluegrass musicians I ever really payed attention to, thanks in large part to his work in Old And In The Way with Jerry Garcia (“Midnight Moonlight” still pops into my head on a fairly regular basis), and I am always excited to hear what he’s doing. “The Warrior” is perhaps the most interesting track on this CD, with those deep rumbling vocals affecting something deep within us. “I refuse to feed this illusion/I deny the confusion/I am not here/You are not there.” The CD then concludes with “Another Summer Day,” written by Will Lee, and featuring Anders Beck (of Greensky Bluegrass) on dobro and Jeff Covert (who also engineered these recordings) on percussion. This one has sweet, beautiful, relaxed feel to it, and is another favorite of mine. “Talked for days and nights on end/No other place I’d rather be/Couldn’t have a better friend.”

CD Track List
  1. Ripchord
  2. Lil Miss
  3. Memories
  4. Fill ‘Em Up Again
  5. Miles And Miles
  6. The Warrior
  7. Another Summer Day 
Experienced is scheduled to be released on February 26, 2016.

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