Larry Keel and Curtis Burch - The Newgrass Experience

Artist: Larry Keel and Curtis Burch
Title: Larry Keel - Curtis Burch and the Experience
Year: 2002
Label: Little King Records
Style: Bluegrass

This insightful collection of mountain lore and super-charged new-grass is fueled by two living legends of acoustic music. Larry Keel, flat pick guitar champion and founding member of McGraw Gap, joins forces with Curtis Burch the internationally renowned dobro master who has graced the stage with other Bluegrass giants such as Norman Blake, Doc Watson, and Ralph Stanley. This collaboration, which is dedicated in memory to genius Bluegrass singer and songwriter John Hartford, also features a talented supporting acoustic ensemble including Billy Constable (Hypnotic Clambake), Woody Woods (Blue Rags), Jason Krekel (Snake Oil Medicine Show), Mark Schimick and Jenny Keel (Larry Keel Experience).

The first track, ‘In the Plan’, features Curtis Burch on lead vocals and dobro in a sure-footed version of this classic written by The Dillards. The Experience rises next for a high-mountain thrill ride with ‘Carolina Sunshine’ and ‘Never Get On A Train Again’- a newgrass electrified rendition originally performed by the Everly Brothers.

Jason Krekel, on mandolin and lead vocals, heads up a brilliant cover of John Hartford’s classic ‘On the Road’ – A zany musical dissertation of the effects of jet-lag played in hyper-waltz time signature ( I give this version a very hefty A+, which is saying a lot coming from a seasoned Hartford fan!). On track 5 Larry Keel presents a hand-crafted composition entitled ‘The Door’: A bluesy, head-bobbing, number packed with Larry’s raspy vocal musings and greased lightning on the fret board. Then Larry and Curtis gladly throw a habanero into the pot and get down to business with a roof burning rendition of Tut Taylor’s ‘Black Ridge Ramble’.

I’ve always had great joy whenever hearing John Hartford’s ‘First Girl I Loved’ and I am equally impressed with this collaborative version including the haunting guitar and dobro interludes which weave themselves gently between the lyrics of this timeless tale of love past and present. This disc also boasts three other Keel compositions ‘Kite Song’, ‘These Things’, and ‘Smile’ which are impressive displays of Larry’s songwriting talent that make him one of the most important artists in acoustic music today. As an added bonus on this CD we are treated to ‘Pennies In My Pocket’ (written by Curtis Burch, Sam Bush, and Mark Olson) which features a bluegrass knuckle-sandwich of Curtis Burch on dobro and Billy Constable on banjo.

I’m sure that if you are a serious Bluegrass fan that this CD is a no-brainer to add to your collection. Larry and Curtis are two of the most talented and hard-working dudes who have ever played acoustic music. You can really feel the emanations of the great time these two must have had with The Experience rambling through these choice cuts in the studio. Isn’t that what great music is REALLY about? I’m sure John Hartford is looking down from the clouds right now knowing that he is not forgotten and honored that these two friends are playing his songs and having a blast in the process.

Review: S. Remington

CD Review originally appeared on PhreshWater.com in November 2002