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Bluegrass band looks to strum up a young fan base in Columbus concert

Courtesy of Musical Earth

One band’s down-home rhythm is cruising from the Appalachian Trail to the Bahamas, but not before it spreads its bluegrass to Columbus.

Virginia bluegrass band Larry Keel and Natural Bridge is scheduled to perform with Cowboy Hillbilly Hippy Folk Thursday at Woodlands Tavern, located at 1200 W. Third Ave. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Headed by Keel, the band plays southern bluegrass, inspired by artists from Jerry Garcia to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, Keel said.

“It’s a very organic sort of sound, very powerful music,” Keel said. “It’s some bluegrass, some original music and a little reggae here and there. It’s very honest music.”

Keel, who has been performing for nearly 25 years, grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was there, he said, that his love for bluegrass was born.

“Bluegrass artists just come out of woodwork around here,” Keel said. “I grew up around bluegrass music. Between my father and my brother, there was always someone playing around the house. I grew older and it just stuck.”

Keel is well-known throughout the bluegrass community for his expertise in flatpicking, which is when guitarists use a guitar pick to pluck individual strings in addition to strumming.

“It’s sort of what he’s renowned for and gives a really unique angle to what he does,” said Dave Obenour, Keel’s public relations agent of Musical Earth. “A lot of big bluegrass legends have given praise to how he does that.”

After a one-night stop in Columbus, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge will head back through the South, continuing their nationwide tour before making a stop somewhere a little more exotic.

“We’ve got all kinds of plans: festivals this summer from here to California, a new CD out called ‘Classic’ that’s available online and we’re going on a big bluegrass cruise that’s coming up next February,” Keel said. “It’s all going to be real cool. Other than that, I’m just writing new stuff. I try to write something once a month, or so.”

The bluegrass cruise, called Mountain Song at Sea, will depart from Miami Feb. 1, and will travel to Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Larry Keel and Natural Bridge is also scheduled to perform July 21 at the All Good Festival, located in Thornville, Ohio.

While the band might be sticking to its roots and playing traditional bluegrass, it’s anything but behind the times.

“We have the energy of electronic music. It’s a lot like all of the music we play. It’s the same beats,” Keel said. “We try to get people going in the same way.”

Obenour said with bands such as Mumford and Sons and The Civil Wars trending in mainstream music, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge’s sound might be the link between Ohio State and bluegrass.

Some OSU students agreed.

“It sounds a lot like what I listen to on a day-to-day basis, just happy indie-folk with some good beats and fast rhythms.” said Andrew Barringer, a third-year in comparative studies. “My roommates and I have bands play in our living room, and those younger bands sound a lot like (Larry Keel and Natural Bridge).”

Tickets are $10 at the door the night of the show and available before online at woodlandstavern.com.

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