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      Robert Earl Keen in Atlanta

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      December 11, 2019

      Wednesday   8:00 PM

      1099 Euclid Avenue
      Atlanta, Georgia 30307

      Robert Earl Keen

      with Shinyribs
      "The road goes on forever ..."It's not always easy to sum up a career - let alone a life's ambition - so succinctly, but those five words fromRobert Earl Keen's calling-card anthem just about do it. You can complete the lyric with the next five words- the ones routinely shouted back at Keen by thousands of fans a night ("and the party never ends!") - justto punctuate the point with a flourish, but it's the part about the journey that gets right to the heart ofwhat makes Keen tick. Some people take up a life of playing music with the goal of someday reaching adestination of fame and fortune; but from the get-go, Keen just wanted to write and sing his own songs,and to keep writing and singing them for as long as possible."I always thought that I wanted to play music, and I always knew that you had to get some recognition inorder to continue to play music," Keen says. "But I never thought of it in terms of getting to be a big star. Ithought of it in terms of having a really, really good career and writing some good songs, and gettingonstage and having a really good time."Now three-decades on from the release of his debut album - with eighteen other records to his name,thousands of shows under his belt and still no end in sight to the road ahead - Keen remains as committedto and inspired by his muse as ever. And as for accruing recognition, well, he's done alright on that front,too; from his humble beginnings on the Texas folk scene, he's blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trailthat's earned him living-legend (not to mention pioneer) status in the Americana music world. And thoughthe Houston native has never worn his Texas heart on his sleeve, he's long been regarded as one of theLone Star State's finest (not to mention top-drawing) true singer-songwriters. He was still a relativeunknown in 1989 when his third studio album, West Textures, was released - especially on the triple bill heshared at the time touring with legends Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark - but once fellow Texas icon JoeEly recorded both "The Road Goes on Forever" and "Whenever Kindness Fails" on his 1993 album, Love andDanger, the secret was out on Keen's credentials as a songwriter's songwriter. By the end of the decade,Keen was a veritable household name in Texas, headlining a millennial New Year's Eve celebration in Austinthat drew an estimated 200,000 people. A dozen years later, he was inducted into the Texas HeritageSongwriters Hall of Fame along with the late, great Van Zandt and his longtime friend from Texas A & M,Lyle Lovett.The middle child of a geologist father and an attorney mother, Keen was weaned on classic rock (inparticular, the psychedelic blues trio Cream) and his older brother's Willie Nelson records - but it was hisyounger sister's downtown Houston celebrity status as a "world-champion foosball player" that exposedhim to the area's acoustic folk scene. By the time he started working on his English degree at Texas A&M,he was teaching himself guitar and setting his poetic musings to song. That in turn led to a college fling witha bluegrass ensemble (featuring his childhood friend Bryan Duckworth, who would continue to play fiddlewith Keen well into the '90s) and front-porch picking parties with fellow Aggie Lovett at Keen's rental house- salad days captured in spirit on the Keen/Lovett co-write, "The Front Porch Song," which both artistswould eventually record on their respective debut albums.While Lovett's self-titled debut was released on major-label Curb Records, Keen took the road lesstravelled, self-financing and producing 1984's No Kinda Dancer and leasing it to the independent labelRounder Records, which issued it on its Philo imprint. "It was difficult, because I didn't know what I wasdoing ... I literally opened up the phonebook and looked for studios," Keen recalls. "I basically put it alltogether through brute force and ignorance, but I was shocked with how well it worked out and very happywith it. We had a release party at Butch Hancock's Dixie Bar and Bustop, and Lyle and Nanci Griffith and alot of those people who were a part of the Austin folkie scene came out."Keen himself had already started to make quite a name for himself on that scene, thanks to four years ofconstant regional gigging and winning the Kerrville Folk Festival's prestigious New Folk songwritingcompetition in 1983. After his debut's release, he began touring more and more outside of the state lines,eventually moving to Nashville in 1986. Keen's stint in Music City, U.S.A., lasted just under two years, buthe returned to Texas armed with a publishing deal, a new label (another indie, Sugar Hill), and a nationalbooking agent. He closed the decade with 1988's The Live Album and the following year's West Textures,the album that marked the debut of "The Road Goes on Forever" and, not inconsequently, kicked his career No Depression) embraced Keen as one of its prime movers. In the wake of albums like 1997's Picnic and'98's Walking Distance (both released on major-label Arista), one would have been hard-pressed to tell thedifference between a rabid Robert Earl Keen crowd at Texas' legendary Gruene Hall and those at New YorkCity joints like Tramps and the Bowery Ballroom. Little wonder, then, that when the songwriter-revering"Americana" style was officially recognized by the industry 1998, Keen was the genre's first artist to befeatured on the cover of the radio trade magazine Gavin.The '90s may have been a boom period for Keen, but his momentum hasn't ebbed a bit since the turn ofthe century - nor has his pursuit of continued growth as a writer and artist. If anything, his output from thelast decade has been marked by some of the most adventurous music of his career. "Wild Wind," anunforgettable highlight from Gravitational Forces, his Gurf Morlix-produced 2001 debut for the NashvillebasedAmericana label Lost Highway, captured the character (and characters) of a small Texas town with acinematic eye reminiscent of The Last Picture Show; but the album's title track also found Keen wrylyexperimenting with spacey, beatnik jazz. For the freewheelin', freak-flag-flying Farm Fresh Onions (2003,Audium/Koch), Keen and producer Rich Brotherton (his longtime guitarist) took the band into theproverbial garage to knock out their most rocking set of songs to date - most notably the psychedelic raveupof the title track. Brotherton also produced the more rootsy but equally playful What I Really Mean(2005, E1 Music), but Lloyd Maines was back at the helm for 2009's eclectic The Rose Hotel and 2011'sspirited Ready for Confetti (both released by Lost Highway). The later was especially well received by fansand critics alike, with AllMusic's Thom Jurek raving, "Ready for Confetti is, without question, Keen's mostinspired and focused project in nearly 20 years." His latest project released in 2015, Happy Prisoner: TheBluegrass Sessions was a straight ahead love postcard to bluegrass. This was something Keen hadwanted to do for a long time and it was now or never. Keen is ranked Billboards No. 2, 2015 BluegrassArtist of the year. His current recording, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions, charted as 2015s Top 5album at Americana Radio and Billboards 2015 No. 2 album on the Bluegrass Albums chart.Earlier this year, Keen played three weeks of sold-out theater dates with Lyle Lovett, just two longtimecollege friends swapping songs on acoustic guitars like they used to do on Keen's front porch in CollegeStation. But the lion's share of his concert schedule still finds him playing full-tilt with his seasoned roadand studio band: Brotherton on guitar, Bill Whitbeck on bass, Tom Van Schaik on drums, and Marty Museon steel guitar. "I've been with this band for 20 years now," Keen says proudly. "I used to think that wasjust sort of an interesting fact, but now it's almost a total anomaly - that just doesn't happen much. I alwaysfelt like once you lock into the right bunch of people, you try to do the best by them that you can. So we'vebeen able to stay together a long time, and I think one thing that makes it worthwhile for people to comesee us as an act is the fact that it's not like we're trying to work it all out onstage - we've already workedeverything out."REK has had the honor of working with music legends Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, EricChurch, Gary Clark, Jr. among others. He was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in2012. In March 2015, Robert Earl Keen was recognized as the first recipient of BMI's official TroubadourAward. Keen is an active member of NARAS and was invited to be a participant in the prestigious"Grammys On The Hill" where he sang the National Anthem at the opening ceremony and was a member of the delegation that lobbied US Congress to support musicians' rights, specifically the "Fair Pay for FairPlay Act".But the road goes on and on, with no time for resting on laurels. Not that Keen's complaining. "I had arelatively open schedule for 2016 back at the beginning of the year, but it has just filled in like you wouldn'tbelieve," he marvels during a rare day off in Kerrville, Texas (where he lives with his wife and twodaughters). "I've broke my record this year - I've packed for five trips at one time, because I wasn't going tobe starting any of them in the same place. It's been crazy!It isnt always easy being Robert Earl Keen, but somebodys got to do it. And now more than ever, hes upto the task and loving every minute of it.

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