Larry Keel & Natural BridgeBACKWOODS

No Label
LKNB09

Expert musicians know in reality, it’s about the band and the final product, not just the star dominating the limelight. Larry Keel is an expert musician and having surrounded himself with musicians of high caliber, he gives them room to shine.

Mandolinist Mark Schimick, a forwardleaning player with a propulsive right hand, shows his chops and vocals on his own composition, “Ghost Driver,” sliding into the opening verse with a nifty intro full of rapid right-hand ornaments, setting a swinging, bluesy groove. He later closes the album with another original, “Swarmin’ Bees.” Banjoist Jason Flournoy gets his chance with his own “Bohemian Reel” and on the extended solo and backing on the rhythmically intriguing “Diamond Break.” Guest fiddler Bobby Britt appears on three tracks, most notably on a striking performance in which he underlines the gypsy roots of Kenny Baker’s “Bluegrass In The Backwoods.”

Of course, Keel is not obscured. He wrote four of he tunes. Two are exceptional: “Diamond Break,” co-written with Chris Jones, recalls Guy Clark in both structure and vocal; “They” is an impassioned and stomping plea for taking concern of our own lives rather than listening to the rants, plans, and lives of others.

Keel adds his unique lead vocals to five tracks which include the two mentioned above and on covers of Tom T. Hall’s “Faster Horses” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Mother Nature’s Son.” His “Faster Horses,” in many ways, trumps the original; its more world-weary and sly than Hall’s own version. While I won’t say he trumps the Beatles, Keel’s “Mother Nature’s Son” evokes a mood that Paul and John could only dream about.
And, of course, there are numerous mesmerizing Keel guitar solos scattered throughout the recording; check out “Bohemian Reel.” Better yet, check out the whole recording. (Keel Office, P.O. Box 30, Lexington, VA 24450, www.larrykeel.com.)BW