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Robert Earl Keen on Shotguns & Guitars

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“You can’t have too many shotguns or guitars.”

–Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen on Shotguns & Guitars

Photo: heathconcerts.org

At a point in a career where most artists have descended into the abyss of familiarity and mostly forgotten, Robert Earl Keen is still going strong. Robert is a moving musical target, still playing his repertoire of songs but still testing the edge of the creative envelope with Bluegrass, one of his first musical loves.  His latest album “Happy Prisoner – The Bluegrass Sessions” climbed to number two on the Billboard Bluegrass charts. Remarkable for a guy raised in Houston, Texas, half a country away from the birthplace of the form.

Robert Earl Keen on Shotguns & Guitars

Photo: rollingstone.com

His work is categorized by those who feel the need to label things as “Americana.”  Whatever you call it, he is mostly a story teller.  Robert weaves tales of misadventure, humor, or as witness to the life around him, what pundits call The Human Condition.  While all demonstrate Robert’s intelligence, what sets his work apart is that he is clever. Lots of smart folks are out there but Robert is clever and clever is hard.  And rare. He has built a following that transcend age groups and social milieu and is now poised to become the Dean of Texas Songwriters.

He says of his durable career – “I’ve lasted longer than a heroin cheeseburger.”

Robert Earl Keen on Shotguns & Guitars
Photo: Robert Earl Keen (center) and his band, (from left) Bill Whitbeck, Tom Van Schaik, Rich Brotherton and Marty Muse, courtesy of Country Weekly

Part of his success is having an extraordinary band. Rich Brotherton, Bill Whitbeck, Tom Van Schaik, and Marty Muse provide the backing track of Robert’s musical ruminations.  Robert’s real secret is that he is a consummate performer.  He communicates with the audience and they respond in kind – Robert Earl Keen’s fans know his songs and sing them with him.

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