EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Larry Keel

On Sunday, January 14, the Ardmore Music Hall will host legendary guitar slinger Larry Keel and his Experience band. Matt Thomas caught up with Mr. Keel via email and learned—among other things—what’s been on the radio in the Experience tour van and what Philly bluegrass fans should expect when the Larry Keel Experience hits town. Tickets for the show are on sale now at ardmoremusic.com, and you can enter to win a pair of tickets on our Facebook page.


MT: What does “bluegrass music” mean to you?

LK: When I think of bluegrass, I think of the music of the people who settled the Appalachian Mountains. Through music, they told the stories of their way of life, their good times, their humor, their hardships and sorrows. Bluegrass players have also tended to be dedicated to mastering their instrument. So the level of musicianship in that genre has a really high standard, among true bluegrass appreciators.

MT: What do you look forward to the most when you come through Philly as a touring musician?

LK: The City of Brotherly Love! It’s old and classic, but hip and edgy too. I look forward to all the love and energy that Philly people bring to the shows. And I never miss having a cheese steak, of course.

MT: Your last album featured a lot of great guests. Is there anyone out there you want to collaborate with, but haven’t had the chance yet?

LK: There are too many to name! Billy Joel? Gordan Lightfoot? Tommy Emmanuel? Mark Knopfler? And many others who have passed on that I would loved to have had a chance to play music with. But I’m lucky that I am constantly meeting new, amazing players and there are so many I already know and play with but haven’t recorded with yet. The best part about it is I never know what’s gonna happen next.

MT: What album or albums are getting the most play in the tour van?

LK: New Grass Revival. Wood Brothers. Steep Canyon Rangers. And I love the late-night-drive DJ session, where I stream song after song while we ride. I mix pretty much every genre imaginable.

MT: Tell us about the band. What should fans expect from the iteration of the Experience that you are bringing to Ardmore Music Hall this month?

LK: Power trio along the lines of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but with guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. Expect a high energy, very authentic sonic art experience. Our show covers the full spectrum of emotions, from the soothing and heart-warming to the raw, gritty and startling; old mountain sounds and fresh, innovative ideas, all of which will transport everyone into the magic of the music. Not to mention one helluva good time.

10 Must-See Shows for Winter 2018

In honor of the season’s first snowfall here in Philadelphia, we’re pleased to present a flurry of great bluegrass and roots shows coming through town this winter. Here are the 10 that we think you shouldn’t miss. We’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to grapple with the paradox that a few of these can’t-miss shows occur on the same night.

As always, for a comprehensive list of bluegrass/roots music shows and jams this season, visit the Philly Bluegrass calendar.

Have a different take on the top 10 shows this winter? Think the calendar is missing something? Consider joining Philly Bluegrass and volunteering for our new Programming Committee. Membership comes with a rad Philly Bluegrass t-shirt, sticker, and a ticket to the 2018 launch party/concert with a great headliner–that you can help us choose. Join here!

January 9: Jacob Jolliff Band at World Cafe Live

This new project of Yonder Mountain String Band’s Jacob Jolliff features some of the best pickers in the game in the persons of Alex Hargreaves, Stash Wyslouch, and Jeff Picker. Jolliff brings his outfit to World Cafe Live upstairs on January 9 in this, the band’s first appearance in Philadelphia.

January 27: The Infamous Stringdusters w/ Horseshoes & Hand Grenades at Union Transfer

As if this wasn’t already a highly-anticipated show, the ‘Dusters were just nominated for a Grammy award, which they stand to win the following day in New York City. Make sure to see them on Saturday night so you can brag to all your friends about it the next day. The excellent Horseshoes & Hand Grenades opening this show only sweetens the deal.

January 28: The Wood Brothers w/ The Stray Birds at Union Transfer

Here’s the must-see OMG-the-vocals show of the season. These two Americana bands have hands-down some of the best vocal harmonies in the business, and making them almost destined to be paired together. Besides, what else are you going to do? Stay home and watch the Grammys on television?

January 31: Greensky Bluegrass w/ Billy Strings at The Fillmore Philadelphia

The new-ish Fillmore Philadelphia gets in on the bluegrass game for the first time on Wednesday, January 31. The venue sure scored a good one with Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass and young gun Billy Strings, himself fresh off the release of his new record, Turmoil & Tinfoil. Don’t be surprised if you see them guesting on one another’s set, as they did in this 2015 clip from Portland, OR.

January 31: Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth at World Cafe Live

Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth are co-starring in a forthcoming feature-length indie film, “American Folk.” In theaters January 26, the film tells the story of America in the days following September 11, 2001 through the eyes of two folk musicians on the road. The pair will be performing songs from the film and more on January 31 at World Cafe.

February 9: The Lil’ Smokies at Boot & Saddle

One could argue persuasively that The Lil’ Smokies stole the show at Ardmore Music Hall last month. It’s great to see they are returning to Philadelphia in a headlining slot at Boot & Saddle. Don’t miss the chance to see them at this intimate club before they move into larger venues next time through town, which you can pretty much count on.

February 9: Sierra Hull at Milkboy

If you enjoy virtuosity in bluegrass music there may be no better show this season than Sierra Hull, who tours with two musicians who are at the top of the game: Edgar Meyer prodigy Ethan Jodziewicz on upright bass and Hull’s newly-wed husband, Justin Moses, on, well… everything.

February 15: Hot Rize at the Colonial Theatre

January 2018 marks 40 years since Hot Rize’s first gig in Boulder, Colorado in 1978. The band is celebrating with a 40th anniversary tour and a new “Songs and Stories” theater program that look back on their four decades as central figures in the carrying on and re-interpretation of the bluegrass tradition. Rumor has it that the mysterious Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers will also play a set of mid-century country music on February 18 at the Colonial Theatre.

February 27: Tyler Childers at World Cafe Live

Tyler Childers put out one of the Americana records of the year, in this listener’s humble opinion, due in no small part to the presence on the record of some of the best bluegrass musicians around — including Michael Bub, Charlie Cushman, and Stuart Duncan — and the palpable influence of producer Sturgill Simpson.

March 23-25: Wilmington Winter Bluegrass Festival

The areas favorite hotel festival returns again March 23-25, where conference rooms, elevator landings, and lobbies will resound with bluegrass jams until 2am in the morning (and later). Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out headline, while regional acts Mountain Ride and The High and Wides joining the bill for the first time.