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Published: 2013/05/18
by Shea Hester

Aiken Bluegrass Festival, Aiken, SC- 5/11

The 10th installment of the Aiken Bluegrass Festival took place this past weekend in Aiken, SC. Offering two days of music and camping this year, it was by far larger than any previous year. Friday offered some local talent along with the Hackensaw Boys and Larry Keel and Natural Bridge.

Music on Saturday kicked off around 2:30 with local bluegrass outfit Doug and the Henrys. Playing traditional tunes such as “Long Black Veil,” “Orange Blossom Special,” “Summertime,” “Ring of Fire” and even a rendition of “Tennessee Stud,” it was a great start to the day and a foreshadow of what was to come. Next up was an all-female newgrass troupe called Della Mae. Based out of Nashville, these ladies display excellent vocal harmonies and can pick with the best of them.

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge offered another performance on Saturday. Along with wife Jenny holding it down on the upright bass, the band is rounded out by banjo veteran Will Lee and the Appalachian-infused stylings of Mark Schimick on mandolin. Offering a well-mixed set with originals and covers, they were even joined by Keller Williams toward the end of their set for a take on the Grateful Dead’s “Ramble on Rose.”

Keller then played a solo set providing the crowd with some random covers such as Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” the Allman Brothers “Midnight Rider,” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. Keller also added a good mix of originals like “Bounty Hunter,” “Hula Hoop to the Loop,” and “Super Hot Girl.” However, the highlight of the set was his Price-Is-Right opus “Bob Rules” which was sandwiched around an interesting rendition of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.”

Shortly after his set, Keller returned to the stage with Larry and Jenny Keel opening with a twanged-up version of “Dupree’s Diamond Blues.” Following Keller and the Keels, the Travelin’ McCourys were up next and extended an invite to Larry Keel to pick with them throughout their whole set. Sticking with mostly staples and traditionals, they did offer up a bluegrass version of Bob Dylan’s “Walk Out in the Rain,” which was turned into a hit by Eric Clapton in the late ’70s.

There was still room for a bit more after the Travelin’ McCourys finished their set. Keller Williams then returned to the stage with the McCourys dishing out some tunes from their collaborative album Pick. They even busted out some rare covers with a grassed-up take on Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant. At the end of their set, they paired up the original, bluegrass-legend tribute, “Bumper Sticker” and a cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.”

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