Why Robert Earl Keen is not a
household name to music lovers after 16 releases is truly a mystery. Perhaps
one of the reasons is that which arguably built his musical chops – his deep
roots – are also his undoing. As anyone who has spent any time around the music
industry will tell you, unless you’re Willie Nelson or Lyle Lovett, the odds
are that your musical prowess won’t equal success beyond the Lone Star state.
Heck, even the much-honored Rodney Crowell often doesn’t get anything near his
But we digress. Right from the first
strums of the guitar on the album’s opening track, the western-themed “Black
Baldy Stallion,” you know you’re in for a sonic treat. You can almost see
a tumbleweed roll past as the music smoothly shifts from a Spanish-tinged sound
into pure Texas sings the tale of one returning to a love. But then Keen turns
up the tempo on the album’s title track, taking a Jimmy-Buffett-approach in
both instrumentation and vocals as he tells a rather tragic tale of
homelessness. Talk about delivering the unexpected. And don’t forget “I
Gotta Go,” an up-tempo song that’s so jaunty, listeners might miss that
the lyrics are about rejection and survival.
If you’re looking for music that
displays the latest guitar wizardry or sonic pyrotechnics, move on, this isn’t
for you. Robert Earl Keen is a master storyteller who blends acoustic, nylon
and steel guitar with solid percussion and his pure, distinct voice into the
has to offer.
DOWNLOAD: “I Gotta Go,” “Black Baldy Stallion” NANCY DUNHAM