Larry Keel & Natural Bridge in the Mountain State

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Larry Keel and Natural Bridge
Mountain State Brewing Company
Thomas, West Virginia
February 21, 2009

Flatpicking master Larry Keel and his band, Natural Bridge, made their way to majestic Canaan Valley to deliver a stellar, high-energy performance at Mountain State Brewing Company Saturday night.

Larry has always been an impressive picker, but Saturday’s show proved to be a showcase for not only Larry, but also for the nastily sick chops of the other three members of Natural Bridge.  The band played as a locked in, cohesive unit, with Larry masterfully giving all the right nods at all the right times to the other members of the band, ensuring that sizzling hot licks were as common as the deliciously heady micro-brews flowing from the taps.

Larry-and-Jenny.jpgWhile Ms. Jenny Keel held down the fort with vivacious enthusiasm and rock solid playing, the door was left wide open for Larry’s blistering runs, Mark Schimick’s rapid-fire mandolin chops, and Jason Flournoy’s banjo insanity.  Particularly inspiring standouts included a jaw dropping cover of the classic White Album tune, “Mother Nature’s Son” (can also be found on the new album, Backwoods), an off the wall version of Grandmaster Flash’s hip hop classic, “The Message,” and a rip through bluegrass standard Remington Ride that drew substantial hoots and hollers from the fired up crowd.

Natural Bridge also played several original cuts from the new album, which were balanced perfectly with older songs and the aforementioned covers.  The most impressive feat the band accomplished on Saturday was their ability to play a cornucopia of tunes from a multitude of genres and still sound like themselves.  Whether playing traditional bluegrass, rock, funk, or hip-hop influenced tunes, these guys were on fire.

To add even more to the overall impact, the environment at Mountain State Brewing Company was warm and down to earth, with a crackling fire in the handcrafted fireplace and serious microbrews served fittingly in mason jars.  The vibe was fantastic and the crowd was diverse.  From outdoorsy athletic types enjoying their après ski to locals that fully represented classic Appalachia, everyone shared big grins, smiles, and yeehaws throughout the evening.  The band also made a good impression on the crowd by sticking around after the show for conversations and photo-ops.

The music these human beings are making right now is very special.  Seeing Larry and Natural Bridge in a setting of such stunning physical beauty while simultaneously downing delicious beer made for a uniquely intimate and memorable show.

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