Larry Keel
Get Larry Keel essential facts below. View Videos or join the Larry Keel discussion. Add Larry Keel to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Larry Keel
Larry Keel
VIP Campfire w/ Jenny Keel 11.3.12
With Jenny Keel on bass
VIP Campfire - Jam 2 on November 3, 2012
Greenville, Virginia
Background information
Born (1968-11-25) November 25, 1968 (age 50)
Manassas, Virginia
OriginRockbridge County, Virginia
musician, guitarist, singer, band leader
Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Larry Keel Experience, Keller Williams, Dangermuffin, Will Lee, Magraw Gap, Yonder Mountain String Band

Larry Keel (born November 25, 1968 in Manassas, Virginia) is a bluegrass musician "reared in" Southwest Virginia[1] who's been performing "seriously" since 1976.[2] He was a founding member of Magraw Gap in 1990 with Danny Knicely and Will Lee. He performs with his wife, bassist Jenny Keel, in The Larry Keel Experience -- and with other musicians in other groups. He has released over a dozen albums, the latest being Experienced in 2016, which he recorded with his group, Larry Keel Experience.[3] He is married to his bass player, Jenny Keel.



Larry Keel was born in Manassas, Virginia in 1968. He was taught guitar by his father James Keel, who played banjo.[4] His brother Gary,[5] who played guitar[4] -- and was twelve years older -- bought him one when he was seven.[6] He began playing seriously in 1975. Between 1976 and 1985 he performed bluegrass music in a number of "semi-professional situations", e.g., bluegrass and fiddler conventions, community events, barbecues, etc.[2]

In 1986 was hired by Disney as a contract musician to perform at Tokyo Disneyland[1] when he was 18. Returning to the United States, he met bluegrass musicians John Flower and Mark Vann in Fauquier County, Virginia in 1989 and together they began exploring "progressive string music" in a band they formed named Farmer's Trust. In 1990, Mark Vann (1963-2002)[7] moved to Telluride, Colorado to help found the "Cajun-influenced jam band" Leftover Salmon.[2]

Magraw Gap

In 1990, Keel and "long-time musical friend" Will Lee -- son of guitarist Ricky Lee from Ralph Stanley's band in the 1970s -- founded a "progressive string band" named Magraw Gap. Through 1993 the new group traveled throughout the Shenandoah Valley competing in bluegrass competitions, winning first place at several festivals. In 1993 Keel entered the guitar competition at Telluride Bluegrass Festival and won first place. In 1994, Magraw Gap began touring regularly. In 1995 it won the bluegrass band competition at. Keel won the guitar competition there again in 1996.[2]

Jenny Keel

As Keel relates, Jennifer "Jenny" Newmark "was always a huge supporter of the live music scene in our area of Virginia," but somehow they'd "never crossed paths at all those jams and festivals." They met "at a little tavern in (his) town" where she came to see "one of her favorite local bluegrass heroes (Gary Ruley) play" in March 1994.[8] When Keel "got up on stage with Gary to pick a tune," joining Will Lee who was also sitting in that show, she was "blown away" by his musicianship, particularly by their take on the David Grisman tune "Eat My Dust".[8]

When Keel walked off stage and passed her in the crowd she told him, "That was the best E.M.D. I've ever heard!" She concludes, "You know how it goes! We traded phone sure seemed like love at first sight . ."

The future Jenny Keel had never played a stringed instrument before she met Keel. "I had played piano by ear, had been in competition choral groups in high school (so I knew music theory, just not how to play a guitar or bass)," she says. "Getting together with Larry and his buddies made my progress in learning the bass fly along quickly."[8]

Larry Keel Experience

In September 1996, Keel split with Magraw Gap and formed the Larry Keel Experience,[2] made up of himself on guitar, his wife on bass, and other musicians he'd worked with over the years. Over the next several years the group would record a number of "adventurous albums".[9]

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

In January 2005 Keel created a new band, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge[2] -- consisting of himself on guitar, his wife Jenny Keel on bass, Mark Schimick on mandolin, and Will Lee on banjo -- who have toured and recorded extensively together.[10]


Starting in 1996, when Keller Williams recorded "Buzz" with Magraw Gap as supporting musicians -- and the group released their self-titled CD -- Keel has been active recording with different musical acts and talents. The Larry Keel Experience 1997 "Miles & Miles" CD featured 20 special guests. In 1998 Keel worked with Curtis Burch, recent Grammy Award-winner for "The Great Dobro Sessions" produced by Jerry Douglas and Tut Taylor.

Larry Keel Experience released "Larry Keel, Curtis Burch & the Experience" with Billy Constable in 2002. Keel's 2004 "Journey" CD, recorded at his home in Natural Bridge, included guest artists David VanDeventer, Danny Knicely, Will Lee, Gary Ruley, John Flower, Robert Mabe, Slinky Cobblestone, and Morgan Morrison. In 2009 Larry Keel and Natural Bridge released and almost entirely original "Backwoods", co-produced by Keller Williams and mastered by Bill Wolf. The album received highly favorable reviews. The Wounded Messenger noted, "Perhaps no song better encapsulates the group's sound than the constantly shifting 'Crocodile Man,' which meanders through steep, jazzy terrain often explored by progressive acoustic acts but perfected here."[11]

Larry and Jenny Keel's second album with Keller Williams, performing as Keller and the Keels, "Thief" went #1 on Billboard Charts and stayed there for several weeks in a row.[12]


With Acoustic Syndicate at Smilefest, 2010
With Acoustic Syndicate at Smilefest, 2010

Larry Keel tours actively with one of his many musical act combos, and with other musical acts -- making appearances at major festivals across the country. In 2002, Larry Keel Experience played numerous shows with Vassar Clements and Tony Rice, including at Suwannee Springfest and MerleFest. In 2008, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge toured and collaborated across the country with Rice, Yonder Mountain String Band, Fred Tackett, Paul Barerre, Keller Williams, Hot Tuna, and Davisson Brothers Band. In the winter of 2009, Keel joined "flatpicking guitar virtuoso" Adam Aijala of Yonder Mountain String Band on a tour of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.[13]

Keller and the Keels performed on Jam Cruise 10 in the Caribbean in 2012.[14] Larry Keel and Natural Bridge performed on Steep Canyon Rangers' "Mountain Song at Sea" cruise in the Bahamas in 2013,[15] joining other acts such as Peter Rowan, Tim O'Brien, the Punch Brothers, the Del McCoury Band, the David Grisman Sextet, and the Travelin' McCourys. Larry and Jenny Keel collaborated with Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band and Danny Barnes on tours throughout the U.S., including two appearances on the Mumford & Sons "Gentlemen of the Road" tour in Ohio and Oklahoma in 2013.[16]

In 2013 Larry and Jenny Keel appeared as the opening act at The String Cheese Incident's "Hulaween" festival in Live Oak, Florida.[17] In 2014, The Keels appeared at the Lockn' Festival with New Grass Revival founder, Sam Bush.[18] That same year the Larry Keel Experience played a sold-out show at the "Bluegrass Underground" concert series in a cave in 33 feet below McMinnville, Tennessee.[19]

With Keller Williams at All Good Music Festival
With Keller Williams at All Good Music Festival July 13, 2007.

Larry Keel Experience finished out 2014 by hosting to a New Year's Eve show at the Oscar Blues Brewery in Brevard, North Carolina. Major acts involved in the festive show from around the region included the Jon Stickley Trio, Jeremy Garrett and Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters, Steve McMurry of Acoustic Syndicate, and Mike Guggino of Steep Canyon Rangers.[20]

July 2015 Keller and the Keels toured non-stop through the Deep South with Dangermuffin.[21] Keel also performed in collaboration with Darol Anger, Sam Grisman, and Scott Law that year,[22] adding three sets at FloydFest in Virginia.[23]


  • Magraw Gap (1996) -- with Will Lee on banjo, Danny Knicely on mandolin, Larry Keel on guitar, and Dr. John Flower on bass. [Magraw Gap]
  • Miles and Miles (1997) -- features some 20 guest musicians performing originals (e.g., Old Man Kelsey, Miles and Miles) and covers ranging from Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" to Blind Willie Johnson's "God Moves on Water". Recorded in a two-day session at Keel's home in Natural Bridge, Virginia.[3] [Larry Keel Experience]
  • The Sound (1998) -- features 11 out of 12 original songs, e.g., "Pioneers" and "Jerry's Farewell". Recorded live in the Keel home. Both instrumental and vocal accompaniment pieces are on the album. [Larry Keel Experience]
  • Larry Keel Experience (2000) -- recorded with superior engineering skill by Mike Brantley, former bass player for The Del McCoury Band. Features original acoustic music by Larry Keel, Will Lee, David Via, and Dr. John Flower -- as well as earlier works penned by pioneers of progressive bluegrass music John Hartford, Ben Eldridge, and The Dillards. [Larry Keel Experience]
  • Larry Keel, Curtis Burch, and The Experience (2002) -- features two-time Grammy Award winner Curtis Burch, an original member of New Grass Revival, whose awards came from his appearing on The Great Dobro Sessions and the soundtrack to the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Journey (2004) -- fully self-produced, 14-song album interspersed with familiar, traditional themes and "some startling new territories".[24] [Larry Keel]
  • The Keel Brothers, Vol. 1 (2005) -- studio recording that with older brother Gary (senior by 12 years) captures a major aspect of Larry Keel's "formation as a master flatpicking guitarist and a preserver of Appalachian and classic American Country music." Draws on selections from the earliest Stanley Brothers, Hank Williams, Doc Watson, The Country Gentlemen, and fiddle and flatpicking tunes that were always part of Keel family jam sessions.[24] [The Keel Brothers]
  • Larry Keel & Natural Bridge (2005) -- pays respects to forefathers of mountain music who "set the standard of how it should be played and sung." Features Larry Keel on guitar and vocals, Mark Schimick on mandolin and vocals, Andy Thorn on banjo, and Jenny Keel on bass and vocals. [Larry Keel & Natural Bridge]
  • Grass (2006) -- self-released album containing a "delightfully bizarre collection of anything-but-traditional bluegrass songs." Featuring ten songs, "originals and unexpected cover tunes, that yield to a pure love of music."[24] [Keller and The Keels]
  • Keel Brothers, Vol. 2 (2006) -- emphasizes roots of Appalachian and Classic Country. Includes titles from influential artists such as: Ralph Stanley, Tom T. Hall, Bill Monroe, and Leroy Drumm; with traditional numbers like "Liberty", "Remington Ride", "Cripple Creek", and "Kingdom Cometh". [The Keel Brothers]
  • Backwoods (2009) -- second studio project from Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. Features seven original compositions of the ten total tunes. Co-produced by Keller Williams. [Larry Keel & Natural Bridge]
  • Thief (2010) -- Keller Williams gives the bluegrass treatment to 13 rock, pop, and folk songs, from Ryan Adams and Amy Winehouse to Presidents of the United States of America and Butthole Surfers. [Keller & The Keels]
  • Classic (2012) -- nine out of the 12 compositions written by Keel, bandmates, and songwriting friends. [Larry Keel & Natural Bridge]
  • Experienced (2016) -- entirely original showcases of Keel's and bandmate Will Lee's songwriting, singing, and instrumentals. With Jenny Keel on upright bass and harmony vocals. Recorded at Wally Cleaver Studio in Fredericksburg, Virginia with Jeff Covert (engineer and guest drummer). Mastered by Bill Wolf (Willie Nelson, Tony Rice, Doc Watson) in Arlington, Virginia. Guest-musician-friends who appear on various tracks include: Sam Bush, Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, Keller Williams, Jason Carter (The Del McCoury Band), Mike Guggino (Steep Canyon Rangers), and Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass). [Larry Keel Experience]

Musical style

As NPR notes, "Keel leads a band dedicated to taking fiery, authentic bluegrass around the world."[10]

Larry is the yin and the yang . . he will break your heart with a waltz, but he can also scare the hell out of you in the next song. He plays on the edge . . no, strike that--he creates genius guitar solos while staring over the edge and laughing maniacally.[25]

-- Anders Beck, Greensky Bluegrass

Larry is a unique artist in that he never settled as just being a guitar wizard, as so many young virtuosos do, but instead, he created his musical identity through his own personal vision.[26]

-- Brian Paul Swenk, Bluegrass Today

Honors, awards, distinctions

  • 1990-1993 Magraw Gap placed first at a number of bluegrass festivals.[2]
  • Keel won the flatpicking guitar competition at Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1993 and 1996.[27]
  • Magraw Gap placed first at Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1995.
  • Flatpicking Guitar Magazine released their "Best of 2001" CD including Larry Keel's original instrumental, "Jerry's Farewell".[28]
  • Flatpicking Guitar Magazine released their "Doc Fest" CD in April 2002, a tribute to guitar legend Doc Watson, including a Larry Keel duet with cellist Rushad Eggleston, "Matty Groves".[29]
  • In Fall of 2003 Flatpicking Guitar Magazine released "Hot and Spicy" CD, a guitar compilation project including a duet performance by Wyatt Rice and Larry Keel.[30]
  • In 2004 Keel and wife Jenny were the subject of a video entitled Larry Keel: Beautiful Thing documents a year in their touring life (2002).[31]
  • Keel appeared on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine May/June 2004 issue (with a 5-page feature article).[32]
  • Film director Ryan Gielan was invited to show his full-length film Larry Keel: Beautiful Thing as a featured performance at the 2004 MerleFest, the first time the memorial festival had ever before used film as a performance medium.
  • In February 2006, the Del McCoury Band won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album of 2005 for The Company We Keep,[33] which featured Keel's "Mountain Song".[34]
  • In 2009, Keel debuted in his first acting role in independent film, John Lee: The Man They Could Not Hang, playing a jail warden in late 19th century England. His music was also featured on the soundtrack.[35]
  • Thief, the second album Larry and Jenny Keel released with Keller Williams,[36] debuted at #28 on Billboard's Heatseeker Albums chart and at #1 on Billboard's Bluegrass Albums chart,[12] where it remained for several weeks in a row in 2010.
  • In 2011, Will Lee's tune "Sound Check", performed by Larry Keel Experience, was featured on Confluence Films movie Connect.[37]
  • In 2013, Keel's tune "Fishin' Reel" was featured as soundtrack to the Alaskan pike-fishing segment in Confluence Films movie Waypoints.[38]
  • In 2014 and 2015, Keel was Artist at Large at the "destination festival" Strings and Sol in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, appearing at least twice with every band on the bill, i.e., Fruition, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Sam Bush Band, and Greensky Bluegrass Band.[39]


Keel is married to his bassist, Jennifer "Jenny" (née Newmark) Keel. He has a passion for fishing and has developed a number of related enterprises,[10] including a website dedicated to sport fishing and bluegrass called and retreat workshops that combine these two interests. Says Keel of his twin passions, "there's a common thread that brings together a wonderful network of like-minded folks all across the world who seek out the deep qualities that characterize both fishing and playing or listening to music. It's a mystical connection, one that brings a lot of joy and satisfaction to a world overwhelmed with so much artificiality and staleness."[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Band Scene: Flatpicking icon Larry Keel never fishing for friends". Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "History «  Larry Keel". Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b "Experienced - Larry Keel - Bluegrass Today". Bluegrass Today. 2016-02-23. Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b "An Interview: Larry Keel". Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Larry Keel On Mountain Stage". Retrieved .
  6. ^ "Grateful Web Interview with Larry Keel". Grateful Web. 2016-03-05. Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Leftover Salmon's Mark Vann Dies". Billboard. Retrieved .
  8. ^ a b c "Q&A with Larry and Jenny Keel of Larry Keel Acoustic Power Trio | Rams Head Group". Retrieved .
  9. ^ "Larry Keel - Biography | Billboard". Retrieved .
  10. ^ a b c "Larry Keel & Natural Bridge On Mountain Stage". Retrieved .
  11. ^ "Album Review: Larry Keel and Natural Bridge - Backwoods". The Wounded Messenger. 2009-03-03. Retrieved .
  12. ^ a b KindWeb. "Keller Williams' 'Thief' Debuts on Billboard Charts: KindWeb News Articles". Retrieved .
  13. ^ "Adam Aijala and Larry Keel to Tour the West Coast". Retrieved .
  14. ^ "Jam Cruise 16 | Jam Cruise 10 | January 17-22, 2018". Jam Cruise 16. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Bon Voyage! Mountain Song at Sea sets sail - Bluegrass Today". Bluegrass Today. 2013-02-01. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Jeff Austin & The Here and Now Touring Late Summer". JamBase. 2013-07-16. Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Inaugural String Cheese Incident's Suwannee Hulaween, 10/31-11/2013 - Spirit of Suwanee Music Park, Live Oak, FL". Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Lockn' Music Festival 2014 - Bluegrass Today". Bluegrass Today. 2014-09-18. Retrieved .
  19. ^ "The Larry Keel Experience @ Bluegrass Underground". Bandsintown. Retrieved .
  20. ^ "The Larry Keel Experience w/ Jeff Sipe at Oskar Blues' 3rd Annual NYE Hootenanny in Brevard, NC -". Retrieved .
  21. ^ "July | 2015 | TDawg Presents". Retrieved .
  22. ^ "2-Day Passes (Sat/Sun ONLY) Are On Sale Now! | StringSummit". Retrieved .
  23. ^ "FloydFest 14: Fire On The Mountain | Starr Hill Brewery". Starr Hill Brewery. Retrieved .
  24. ^ a b c "Discography «  Larry Keel". Retrieved .
  25. ^ "Larry Keel". Rhythms on the Rio. 2017-03-10. Retrieved .
  26. ^ "Experienced - Larry Keel - Bluegrass Today". Bluegrass Today. 2016-02-23. Retrieved .
  27. ^ "Larry Keel Experience | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved .
  28. ^ "Flatpicking 2001 CD". Retrieved .
  29. ^ "DocFest - A Tribute to Doc Watson CD Download". Retrieved .
  30. ^ "Brad Davis, Tim May & John Moore". Walnut Valley Festival. Retrieved .
  31. ^ Gielen, Ryan, Larry Keel: Beautiful Thing, Adam Aijala, Curtis Burch, Vassar Clements, retrieved
  32. ^ "Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, Volume 8, Number 4, May / June 2004". Retrieved .
  33. ^ "Del McCoury". 2017-05-14. Retrieved .
  34. ^ "Flatpicker Larry Keel debuts new album on southern tour". AXS. Retrieved .
  35. ^ "'The Man They Couldn't Hang' screening in Rappahannock". Dreamspider's Blog. 2010-01-19. Retrieved .
  36. ^ "Keller Williams - Biography | Billboard". Retrieved .
  37. ^ "Connect". Confluence Films. 2016-01-04. Retrieved .
  38. ^ "Waypoints". Confluence Films. 2016-01-04. Retrieved .
  39. ^ "Strings & Sol | Strings & Sol 2015 | December 08-12, 2017". Strings & Sol. Retrieved .

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes