Robert Earl Keen

Live From Austin, TX

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This live outing was recorded for the Austin City Limits television broadcast in August of 2001. Basically, it's the gig in its entirety. As such, Keen and his able band tear through his catalog in fine form. And that's the issue: this feels like a run-through; there is no spontaneity in the recording; the sound is crisp and clean but there are no unexpected edges. Keen's live gigs are usually full of humor and warmth, and this is the opposite. There's nothing wrong with his readings of "Blow You Away," "The Road Goes On Forever," "Merry Christmas from the Family," "Wild Wind," and "Not a Drop of Rain," but they add nothing to the previously recorded versions and come off as journeyman, ordinary; they're not sterile, exactly, but they are hopelessly generic. Only "Shades of Gray" and his cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Snowin' on Raton" contain any real passion, and in these tunes it's because of the band. The liner notes by Terry Lickona are utterly jive, to boot. Fans of Keen will no doubt love this because they get the hits and they seem to love him no matter what. For the rest of us, this is a cash-in. Period.

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