Robert Earl Keen © KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Robert Earl Keen

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Robert Earle Keen Season 36 by Travis Bone

Making a name for himself back in 1984 with his debut album, No Kinda Dancer, Texas native Robert Earl Keen is now regarded as one of the most highly venerated singer/songwriter veterans of the past 20 years.

Born in Houston, Keen grew up listening to folk and country music in his home and created his own music that pleasurably combined both genres. Keen lays it down on the Austin City Limits stage with his well-known sound that blends “acoustic folk balladry and raucous barroom country” (NPR World Cafe).

Keen learned to play guitar while studying journalism at Texas A&M. During these years, he formed a lasting friendship with Lyle Lovett, and they eventually co-wrote the song “This Old Porch” together. After releasing his first album to a welcoming Austin audience, Keen went to Nashville in the mid-80s to try his hand at the Tennessee country music scene. Yearning for the Texas landscapes and residents that had provided him with unending creative inspiration for so many years, Keen returned to Austin soon thereafter.

In his album The Rose Hotel, Keen performs songs ranging from a “spun-out story tune that looks at a pair of lovers who can never quite connect as they think they’re meant to, fueled by a shuffling rhythm, mandolins, Bukka Allen’s accordion, and some electric guitars for support” (Billboard). Keen’s mastery of the guitar has earned him critical acclaim worldwide, but USA Today sums up his talent best, stating that, “top-notch tune-smiths are as plentiful as tumbleweed in Texas, and American veteran Robert Earl Keen is the best.

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