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Robert Earl Keen brings +Texana+ music, humor on new album to Melody Ranch

Jan. 23, 1997

Robert Earl Keen brings 'Texana' music, humor on new album to Melody Ranch

Courtesy Photo

Robert Earl Keen will open his performance at 10:30 p.m. tonight at Melody Ranch. He will be preceeded by Midnite Rodeo which will open at 8:30.

by Heather Arrott

Lariat Reporter

Robert Earl Keen Jr. is 'Texana' at its best.

Keen's own brand of 'Texana' is difficult to define. It is as appealing as it is down-home gutsy. His style is based as much on a good Texas yarn told well, as it is on his toes tapping or a 'right to the heart of it' musical style.

He distances himself from the 'Dairy Queen' sentimentality and 'good-ole boy' boogie line that runs through traditional Nashville country music. He is not afraid to mix a little Bob Wills swing and a touch of country rock with 'down home in Texas' lyric that is his 'border ballad' signature. 'I'm Going to Town' and 'Five Pound Bass,' both on his newest album No. 2 Live Dinner, are perfect examples.

Though he and his wife, Kathleen, now call Bandera their home, Keen was born in Houston where he met band member and fiddle player Bryan Duckworth.

Keen spent time in West Texas and Nashville where his first album, No Kinda Dancer, debuted in 1985. Keen wrote the album's signature, 'The Front Porch Song,' with his Texas A&M buddy Lyle Lovett.

His contemporaries include Joe Ely, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Greg Clark and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, all household names on the club circuit.

According to Keen, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Don Williams greatly influenced his music.

His subjects at times run to the dark and brooding side of life as the violence and weirdness of his 1992 album A Bigger Piece of Sky exemplifies. From the dark and paranoiac 'Blow You Away' to the poor guy singing from his open grave in 'Here in Arkansas,' Keen still spins a good yarn but with all this doom and gloom he never forgets what makes country folk music tick: a sense of humor.

The slightly off-beat humor that runs through his music reaches out and tweaks you in the spot you didn't know you had. Keen's music is addictive, much like the inability to eat only one potato chip.

Keen's music is as soulful, outrageous and gritty as a southwest Texas wind and his fans love it. Merry Christmas From the Family, his auto-biographical tale of a nightmare family Christmas is destined to become a classic with a cult following as loyal as 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.'

'Fran and Rita drove from Harlingen/ I can't remember how I'm kin to them/' sings Keen in his dead-pan, gritty voice. 'But when they tried to plug their motor home in/ They blew our Christmas lights.'

Keen's band provides terrific support with Duckworth on fiddle, Bill Whitbeck on electric bass guitar and Mark Thomas Patterson on drums. On his latest album No 2. Live Dinner, they are joined by Rich Brotherton on acoustic lead and rhythm guitar and Floyd Maines on pedal steel guitar, a collaboration that can only be appreciated in a live experience.

Keen will play tonight at Melody Ranch. Midnite Rodeo (the band) opens for Keen at 8:30 p.m.; Keen is scheduled to play at 10:30 p.m.

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