Robert Earl Keen Biography

11 January 1956, Houston, Texas, USA. In the mid-70s, Keen befriended Lyle Lovett at Texas A&M University, an establishment that combined academic and military activities. They often sang and played guitar together and they wrote ‘This Old Porch’, which appeared on Lovett’s first album. Keen also formed a bluegrass band, the Front Porch Boys. In 1981, he moved to Austin and worked as the Incredible Robert Keen and Some Other Guys Band. He financed an album on loans of $4, 500, No Kinda Dancer, which has twice been reissued. The Austin Chronicle nominated him Songwriter Of The Year, an honour that invariably went to Butch Hancock. On Steve Earle’s advice that there were too many distractions in Austin - namely, pretty women and drugs - Keen moved to Nashville, although he returned to Texas in 1987. He was a backing singer on Nanci Griffith’s ‘St. Olav’s Gate’ and she recorded his songs ‘Sing One For Sister’ and ‘I Would Change My Life’. He appeared on the recording of the 1986 Kerrville Folk Festival and then recorded a live album for Sugar Hill Records. In 1989, he made a spirited album about Texas life, West Textures. His rough-hewn voice suited the bittersweet songs, which included a country music parody worthy of David Allan Coe, ‘It’s The Little Things (That Piss Me Off)’. The stand-out track, ironically, was a song he did not write - Kevin Farrell’s western tale of ‘Sonora’s Death Row’. Although Keen is a frequent performer, he prefers to write at home: ‘I’m not a very good writer on the road because I only come up with lonely hotel songs.’ Gringo Honeymoon was another excellent album, full of narratives and the telling observation that ‘there are just two ways to go - dyin’ fast or livin’ slow’. Number 2 Live Dinner was a raucous live album recorded in Texas. His major label debut was a typically uncompromising collection comprised largely of Keen originals, and featuring Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies on the duet ‘Then Came Lo Mein’. Keen moved to the newly minted Lost Highway label after his Arista Austin label folded.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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