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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Evolving Outlaw:

Robert Earl Keen
Brooklyn Arts Center 
516 N. 4th Street 
2/1, 8 p.m. • $28-$40
www.brooklynartsnc.com

Robert Earl Keen will play BAC on Feb. 1st. Courtesy photo.

Fifty is the new thirty. At least that’s what country singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen would have us believe. Listen to some of his songs, and it’s apparent he’s not slowing down anytime soon. Even some of his newest lyrics seem to mirror a lifestyle of partying and having a good time.

The 56-year-old native Texan—who is the current spokesman for the music licensing website Splother—has written and recorded 16 albums to date and has been touring the U.S. since the early ‘80s. He’s covered more miles than Delta Skymiles’ most prolific business travelers, playing 120 shows a year for diverse audiences of retirees and college students alike. After touring, Keen plans to write a novel—and after that, he says “[he] would like to do a lot more writing and maybe some teaching.” For now, he’s going to keep playing.

Robert Earl Keen is anything but a quitter. As a boy, he loved poetry, and was influenced by the country and folk music his parents listened to. He attended Texas A&M University in the late ‘70s and found himself disappointed in the college music scene. Thus, he took matters into his own hands and taught himself to play guitar. Keen set out to tell stories, entertain and make the audience happy.

“The lyrics I write are the heart and soul of the entertainment,” he tells encore. “I couldn’t have one without the other. I couldn’t stand up there and entertain without good songs, and I couldn’t write these songs if I didn’t have a place to entertain.”

Keen’s style has been described as country, folk, alternative, indie and rock; he runs the gamut of them all. However, he identifies most “with the Americana music movement, as it encapsulates so many of the styles of music” he grew up hearing.

And in true Americana fashion, he did it all on his own terms. He funded the recording of his first album, “No Kinda Dancer” (Rounder), in 1984. Among his discography to date, he has six live compilations and a “best-of” collection. He has collaborated with Lyle Lovett—singer, actor and friend from his college years—and actor Billy Bob Thornton. Lovett and Keen even co-wrote “This Front Porch” from his first record.

Last year, Keen released “Ready for Confetti” (Lost Highway Records) on August 30th, and much of it sounds just as fresh and witty as his early years. “Play a Train Song” tells the story of a man who dies laughing in his sleep and insists leaving his boots on even after death.

“Singing a train song/pour him one last round/Made ‘em leave his boots on/on the day they laid him down/He was a runaway locomotive/out of his one-track mind.”

The album also contains a re-recording of his 1993 hit, “Paint the Town Beige.” Keen chose the song because of the strong connection he has with its storyline.

“When I wrote it, the narrator or singer was an old outlaw whose wilder days were behind him,” he notes. “Yet, he couldn’t let it all go. Oddly enough, I’ve become that outlaw and it sums up my feelings today. I essentially grew into the song.”

One of Keen’s oldest tracks, “The Road Goes on Forever” (1989, “West Textures,” Sugar Hill Records) is arguably his most well-known. The song features eight different verses, each ending with the line, “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.” Fittingly, the song was re-released on “The Party Never Ends” in 2003 (Sugar Hill Records). Still, its esteem doesn’t completely resonate with the Southerner.

“When I write a song, I don’t really think about popularity or success with my audience,” he admits. “I just try to write the best I can and hope I get a kick out of it.”

And the road keeps calling Keen back year after year. The life of a touring musician is often described as a long, unending path (i.e. ongoing party). Inspired by events in his life, Robert Earl Keen continues connecting with audiences into his 30-year career.

“All my stories have some thread of true life in them,” he says. “However, I think it is much more fun to create a song around a story.”

His colorful tales are matched by engaging delivery. He can take the most dry or grim topic and lace it with sarcasm, humor and creative metaphors. Basically, he knows how to soften the blow for his audience.

“I love humor, and in a live situation, those kinds of songs always add some spice to the show,” he remarks. “I have plenty of serious songs, but I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Robert Earl Keen will stop in Wilmington on Wednesday, February 1st at the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.). Advance tickets are $28.50 and $40, and all ages are welcome. Concert-goers can expect to hear a mixture of songs new and old.

“One thing I can tell you is, we play a different set list every night.”  —Kaitlin Willow

 

SOUNDBITES

Other shows to see this week!

Jam Sandwich will play Tre Benzios this week! Courtesy photo.

Jam Sandwich
Tre Benzios 
141 N. Front St. 
1/26, Free, 9 p.m.
Local band Jam Sandwich, formed in 1998, will play an assortment of different styles, ranging from blues to Southern rock at their Tre Benzio’s show on the 26th. Frontman Jason Schroer sings and plays harmonica, exuding an old-timey, classic sounds. They give off a feel-good vibe with their upbeat, tambourine-accented songs. Stay after the show for a late-night snack or drink, as Tre Benzio’s is open until 2:30 a.m. daily.

 

 

Great Zeus’ Beard
Soapbox Laundro Lounge
255 N. Front St. 
1/28, Free or $5 for under 21, 10 p.m.
Local indie/alternative band Great Zeus’ Beard (an appropriate nod to encore’s favorite comedy, “Anchorman”) will be performing at the Soapbox on the 28th. The band, formed in 2008, released its self-titled EP in early 2009 and “Symposium” (pictured) in 2011. The band members take risks musically, break barriers and incorporate funky, almost alien-like sounds and heavy bass notes into their fast, electric beats.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Lance K. Rawlinson

    January 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Please note that “Play A Train Song” was written by Todd Snider. Just want to make sure credit is given, where credit is due.

  2. Lance K. Rawlinson

    January 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Please note that “Play A Train Song” was written by Todd Snider. Just want to make sure credit is given, where credit is due.

  3. admin

    January 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the note. It is on REK’s latest release, folks! And he has a great rendition with Snider, too! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aU-P6LV_dg —Shea Carver

  4. admin

    January 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the note. It is on REK’s latest release, folks! And he has a great rendition with Snider, too! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aU-P6LV_dg —Shea Carver

  5. quin bagwell

    January 26, 2012 at 2:21 am

    If you don’t have the new album, get it ! It’s his best to date and that’s saying a lot! Simply put…. It’s great.

  6. quin bagwell

    January 26, 2012 at 2:21 am

    If you don’t have the new album, get it ! It’s his best to date and that’s saying a lot! Simply put…. It’s great.

  7. Austin Fenwick

    January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Robert Earl Keen is an amazing artist. I saw him when he played the now long gone Front st music hall back in the day. Would love to see him again. I hope to make it out potentially!

  8. Austin Fenwick

    January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Robert Earl Keen is an amazing artist. I saw him when he played the now long gone Front st music hall back in the day. Would love to see him again. I hope to make it out potentially!

  9. Stacey Chicelli

    January 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I love REK! Saw him a few times in the Triangle area 10 years ago. Haven’t been to BAC yet, so I would love to do both on Wednesday night!

  10. Stacey Chicelli

    January 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I love REK! Saw him a few times in the Triangle area 10 years ago. Haven’t been to BAC yet, so I would love to do both on Wednesday night!

  11. Patty Hewitt

    January 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Robert Earl Keen is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and I would love to see him at Brooklyn Arts Center.

    • admin

      January 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      Congrats, Patty! Your name was drawn to win the pair of tickets to the show. Your name will be at the door; don’t forget your photo ID. Enjoy the show!

  12. Patty Hewitt

    January 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Robert Earl Keen is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and I would love to see him at Brooklyn Arts Center.

    • admin

      January 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      Congrats, Patty! Your name was drawn to win the pair of tickets to the show. Your name will be at the door; don’t forget your photo ID. Enjoy the show!

  13. Malinda

    January 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Sounds like a winner!

  14. Malinda

    January 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Sounds like a winner!

  15. Jimmy Johnston

    January 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    This should be a great time. BAC is a great venue.

  16. Jimmy Johnston

    January 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    This should be a great time. BAC is a great venue.

  17. Matt Bigham

    January 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I’d love to see if the party really does never end! I saw REK years ago and would love to hear some of his new stuff as well.

  18. Matt Bigham

    January 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I’d love to see if the party really does never end! I saw REK years ago and would love to hear some of his new stuff as well.

  19. Pete Kenny

    January 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Seeing Robert Earl Keen would really put my week over the hump.

  20. Pete Kenny

    January 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Seeing Robert Earl Keen would really put my week over the hump.

  21. Shannon leslie

    January 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Robert Earl Keen is the man!

  22. Shannon leslie

    January 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Robert Earl Keen is the man!

  23. Christina McKenzie

    January 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Nowhere else I’d rather be than at this show!

  24. Christina McKenzie

    January 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Nowhere else I’d rather be than at this show!

  25. Kristie Pate

    January 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I’ve never seen Robert Earl Keen…I can’t think of a better place to see him up close and personal than the BAC!

  26. Kristie Pate

    January 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I’ve never seen Robert Earl Keen…I can’t think of a better place to see him up close and personal than the BAC!

  27. Kristen Pealer

    January 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    What an honor to have REK in Wilmington. He is an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and musician. Thank you BAC, Penguin Radio, and Shea and everyone at Encore to help make this happen! Hopefully I will go to an awesome show!

  28. Kristen Pealer

    January 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    What an honor to have REK in Wilmington. He is an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and musician. Thank you BAC, Penguin Radio, and Shea and everyone at Encore to help make this happen! Hopefully I will go to an awesome show!

  29. Patricia Thornton

    January 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    REK takes me back to my college days – I would love to see him!

  30. Patricia Thornton

    January 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    REK takes me back to my college days – I would love to see him!

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