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Wednesday, September 5

Album Review: Larry Keel and Natural Bridge "Classic"

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge
Classic
2012
The new album Classic from Larry Keel and Natural Bridge doesn’t hold many surprises. If you’ve seen them live then you know the instrumentation is top-notch. From out of the gate, Will Lee’s work on the banjo is as crisp and precise as anyone I’ve ever heard. From the traditional “Flora” which has the same feel as “Jack a Roe” and could have easily found a spot on Dylan’s early 90’s acoustic albums, you realize how much the Keels have perfected their craft.  Not everything has to be a new direction but you get the feeling that they have chosen to refine what they do so well. The rave-up of “B funk” shows professional musicians at the top of their game and the music is tight, intricate, and familiar in the way only great bluegrass can be.  In “Back Up on the Mountain” we get to hear Jenny’s wonderful harmonies for the first time this album and I realize how rare it is to have a couple as simpatico as Larry and Jenny. The only example I can even come up with that is close would be Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. After a smoking cover of “Country Blues” by Dock Boggs they move on to the herb-friendly, “How Can It Be Wrong” which I found to be a good song, even if the message is a little rote by now.  The cover of “Put It On” the Marley tune, retains the same roots feel as the original, just roots from a different part of the world and works quite well in a bluegrass vein. It also contains some strong mandolin work from Mark Schimick, who shines all over the album. The closer, “Goose Lake Dreams” is a strong finish to a good album. There are several moments that leave you just shaking your head at how tight this band is. The whole album is so precise that the instrumental work is really what stands out. It’s no secret that Larry Keel has a great reputation and this album does nothing to tarnish that at all. I have the feeling that this album is more of a snapshot than a mission statement. These guys have nothing to prove and make it seem easy to be this talented. It’s almost a shame that it sounds so natural for them because it makes the album feel like an afterthought. Even though it sounds great with full tones and good seperation, I get the feeling they know they don’t have to record another note. This record isn’t essential but don’t pass up a chance to buy a ticket. These are some of the best bluegrass musicians in the game and this album proves it.
This timeless album can be found HERE on Amazon.com!
Words: Greg Heffelfinger
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