Hearing Aide: Larry Keel’s ‘Experienced’

Larry Keel’s latest album Experienced, due out on February 26, can truthfully be described as ear candy. For those who like music of the bluegrass or blues persuasion, or even for those for whom these are not your favorite genres, this album is a highly recommended addition to your collection. Accompanied by his wife Jenny Keel on upright bass and vocal harmonies, and longtime band-mate Will Lee on vocals and banjo, Keel is also joined on this album by a cast of bluegrass superstars, including none other than Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, Sam Bush and Keller Williams.

This album has all three elements going for it: the instrumental, the vocal and the lyrical. It takes several listens-through to feel the full effect of this extremely well-rounded album. It is definitely worth “binge listening” to, taking the time to truly listen to each of the album’s elements. Treated to a healthy mix of sing-along-able songs, and those songs that make you want to just sit back and listen to the poetry coming at you, you’ll find it hard to eject this CD from your player.

It is clear just how much heart was put into each and every word written, and every note sang and played. It also seemed that Keel took the time to write songs that fit well with the musical stylings of his guests. Opening with guest Sam Bush on “Ripchord,” this song manages to tell a silly, whimsical tale without any words, something Bush manages to do so well. On “Fill ‘Em Up Again,” Keel takes the opportunity to employ bluegrass masters Del McCoury and Jason Carter of the Del McCoury Band and Mike Guggino of the Steep Canyon Rangers on this, the most bluegrass of all the tunes on the album. Keller Williams’s fancy guitar picking is complemented nicely on “Miles and Miles,” and Peter Rowan’s signature yodeling is featured on “The Warrior.” The last song, “Another Summer Day,” featuring Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, provides a mellow sing-songy ending to this gem of an album, making you want to start the whole thing over again.

It’s amazing how different Keel’s voice sounds on each of the tunes. Reminiscent of Eddie Vedder on “Miles and Miles” and Johnny Cash on “The Warrior,” his voice gets so deep on “The Warrior” that it almost sounds like a didgeridoo. Keel’s voice balances very nicely with Will Lee’s more distinctive, mellow, pitch-perfect vocals. Keel’s wife, Jenny, adds beautiful harmonies on several of the tunes, blending perfectly as only a husband-and-wife duo can.

Larry Keel’s Experienced is essential for any music lover’s collection, no matter what type of music suits your fancy. It is appealing on so many levels, with its approachable more traditional tunes drawing in listeners, and some of the more rhythmically out there songs giving those listeners a taste of something a bit more sophisticated.

Key Tracks: “Ripchord,” “Fill ‘Em Up Again,” “Another Summer Day”