Robert Earl Keen
with Brothers Osborne / Amy Dalley
Friday, Aug 03, 2012 8:15 PM CDT
Joe's on Weed Street, Chicago, IL
21 years and over
“I would love to have been one of the great singers in the world -- like Vince Gill or someone like that -- even if it was just for one hour,” says Robert Earl Keen. “But I really feel like my gift is writing songs. That’s just there and it’s always been there. I don’t know why, but I always have stories -- they don’t all have to be true, just good. If I could put a subtitle on my best songs, it would be ‘based on a good story.’”
With his latest Lost Highway album, The Rose Hotel (which hit #1 on the Americana charts), Keen re-confirms his place among the Lone Star State’s great storytellers, capable of painting rich, poignant landscapes worthy of Cormac McCarthy and spinning satirical yarns that’d do Kinky Friedman proud. The disc’s rough-hewn tone -- it’s one of the more immediate, organic efforts in Keen’s varied catalog -- emphasizes both ends of that emotional spectrum, with Band-styled organ washes dappling the evocative title track and a hoedown-worthy breakdown propelling the wry “Wireless in Heaven” to its conclusion.
Those songs address everything from, well, his ability to simply hang out (the gently rollicking “Something That I Do”) to his years of soaking up the atmosphere in clubs of all shapes and sizes (the woozy waltz “Goodnight Cleveland”). They flow from the grooves the way they flow from Keen’s own spirit -- naturally, affably and with a lack of fanfare that’s remarkably refreshing in this age of glitz.
“I was in flux before this project,I wasn’t sure there was a purpose in compiling these songs in this old-fashioned way. But then I realized, well, it doesn’t matter if there’s a point -- this is my life, this is what I do and I’m proud of it.”