Robert Earl Keen

West Textures

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Some singers write songs and some songwriters sing. Robert Earl Keen, Jr. falls into the latter category. Unlike his pal Lyle Lovett, who has an extraordinary talent for both crafts, Keen's main strength is his writing. (He studied journalism, after all.) Sure, he can sing just fine, well enough to build a solo career, in fact, but his songs often shine a little brighter when performed by more versatile vocalists. Nevertheless, West Textures marks Keen's third outing and is a fine collection of tunes, most of which are original compositions. Like Nanci Griffith and Steve Earle, Keen's style lies somewhere between alternative country and contemporary folk. Filled with acoustic guitar, Dobro, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, and upright bass, West Textures is a pretty consistent set with a handful of standout tracks. "The Road Goes on Forever" and "Don't Turn Out the Light" jump right out on the first listen thanks to their peppy, catchy melodies. With further attention, "Leavin' Tennessee," "Maria," and "Love's a Word I Never Throw Around" should get the kudos due them, as well. A songwriter's songwriter, Keen gets an A for effort.

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