Robert Earl Keen

The Live Album

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Robert Earl Keen, Jr. repeats only one song from his debut album, No Kinda Dancer, on his second release, the concert effort The Live Album, and that is "The Front Porch Song," which he co-wrote with Lyle Lovett. This version is quite different in the sense that Keen provides a spoken commentary that illuminates what is otherwise an abstract set of metaphors, revealing that he and Lovett used to hang out on a front porch while attending college. It's one of several stories that expand on the album's songs and help to describe, if not explain, Keen himself and the characters he inhabits or depicts. They are a bunch of ne'er do wells interested in staying up late, drinking, taking drugs, driving fast, and listening to music, all in one place in Texas or another. Occasionally, their habits prove off-putting to the opposite sex; "Copenhagen," an outright comic song, is about the brand of chewing tobacco, not the city in Denmark, and how its use can stave off marriage-minded females. Sometimes, despite themselves, Keen's wayward men find themselves in relationships that they regret losing ("I Would Change My Life") or feel compelled to sabotage ("I'll Go on Downtown"). Since they are either lamenting the results of their lifestyles or suffering the temptation to resume their bad behavior, they usually aren't very happy, but they tend to be too drunk to notice. This may be the life of the modern Texas cowboy, or just a fantasy projection, but Keen renders it with humor and pathos, often at the same time.

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