When Larry Keel decided it was time to make a new record, he picked up the telephone and made a few calls. After years of touring the bluegrass circuit, his Rolodex had garnered a few names of note.
“I made a list of all the people I was hoping to get on the CD,” the guitar virtuoso said. “I contacted them and it seemed like everybody I asked wanted to come in and play on it.”
July 10 | 8 p.m.
$12-$15 | 21+
Moe’s BBQ | Tahoe City
The result, “Experienced,” is a sensitive and nimble-fingered modern bluegrass album with an all-star cast featuring Peter Rowan, Sam Bush, Keller Williams, Anders Beck and more. Some might suspect bluegrass musicians to be old-fashioned, but thanks to modern technology, getting all these folks together on an album was easier than you’d think.
“It’s the music of my life. It’s sort of a folk style music that talks about your mother and father, growing up in the mountains and whatnot, the trials and tribulations of life.”
“When we charted out each song, we’d leave an area open to showcase each guest,” Keel explained. “Then we used technology to send the music over to each individual guest so that they could go into a studio near their home and record. They played organically through the songs and let the music move them. They could build into their spot to shine and fill in more. A week later we’d get the tracks back from them, listen to everyone’s incredible work, mix it out and make it sound good. It was an unbelievable process.”
An Appalachian native, Keel has been playing bluegrass music for more than 40 years. He earned widespread acclaim after winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Guitar Competition in both 1993 and 1995.
“I just love the stories,” he related. “It’s the music of my life. It’s sort of a folk style music that talks about your mother and father, growing up in the mountains and whatnot, the trials and tribulations of life. You can be at a campfire and suddenly there someone with a mandolin. You may have never met this before and pretty soon you are sharing the songs. It’s a really good way to get to know people that are like-minded mind in that way.”
Bluegrass and acoustic music recently swept back into popular music with the likes of The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons dominating the airwaves and winning Grammys. Some say this fad is on the decline, but Keel has his doubts.
“The way I look at it, bluegrass will always be here,” he said. “It’s a roots music. Whether it’s widely popular, that’s yet to be seen again. Some people look around and say the blues are dead. But the blues aren’t dead either. It’s still there and loved by the people who appreciate it. I believe that about bluegrass, too. It might not be the pop or music industry machine, but people will always appreciate whether it’s the big ticket or not.”
It’s easy to tell that Keel deeply loves this music and the unique community that comes with it. When I told him that my friends and I have a local bluegrass band in Tahoe, he seemed to be genuinely excited.
“I give it up to you for getting out there and keeping the music alive,” he said. “Us bluegrassers gotta stick together. Bring your instruments and maybe we can jam after the show.”
At Moe’s, Keels’ friends will also include his wife, Jenny, on bass and Hot Buttered Rum fiddler Zebulon Bowles, along with up-and-coming San Francisco bluegrassers One Grass Two Grass.
For more information or for tickets, visit Moe’s on facebook.com.