BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
It’s somewhat ironic that the new album by one of the most iconic songwriters that’s ever emerged from the great state of Texas finds its creator foregoing his original material in favor of revered bluegrass standards. While assorted special guests – Lyle Lovett, Peter Rowan and Natalie Maines, among them – add to the allure, Keen refrains from adding any unnecessary embellishment, drawing his inspiration from fiddle-fueled hoedowns and solitary Appalachian ballads. Much of the material consists of down home traditional tunes like “Long Black Veil,” “This World Is Not My Home,” “Wayfaring Stranger” and assorted selections by Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers among the standout selections. However, even the occasional contemporary cover maintains that sepia tinted template; indeed, a riveting take on Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning” sounds every bit as inspired as the original.
Whether a temporary indulgence or the product of obvious enthusiasm, Happy Prisoner lets loose with a stirring example of authentic Americana.
DOWNLOAD: “Long Black Veil,” “This World Is Not My Home,” “Vincent Black Lightning”