Robert Earl Keen

Sat. Aug 17, 2019 at 8:00pm EDT
All Ages
All Ages
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It's not always easy to sum up a career - let alone a life's ambition - so succinctly, but those five words from Robert 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!") - just to punctuate the point with a flourish, but it's the part about the journey that gets right to the heart of what makes Keen tick. Some people take up a life of playing music with the goal of someday reaching a destination 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.

Now three-decades on from the release of his debut album - with nineteen records to his name, thousands of shows under his belt and still no end in sight to the road ahead - Keen remains as committed to 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 trail that's earned him living- legend (not to mention pioneer) status in the Americana music world. And though the Houston native has never worn his Texas heart on his sleeve, he's long been regarded as one of the Lone Star State's finest (not to mention top-drawing) true singer-songwriters.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Robert Earl Keen's iconic album, A Bigger Piece of Sky, Keen and Dualtone will be releasing it on vinyl for the first time.

In the midst of the vinyl re-issue, Keen is as busy as ever touring. Though Keen has played sold-out theater dates with icons such as Willie Nelson, the lion's share of his concert schedule still finds him playing full-tilt with his seasoned road and studio band: Brotherton on guitar, Bill Whitbeck on bass, Tom Van Schaik on drums, and Marty Muse on steel guitar, Kym Warner on mandolin and electric guitar and Brian Beken on fiddle, acoustic and electric guitars. "Some of my band members have been with me more than 20 years now," Keen says proudly. "I used to think that was just sort of an interesting fact, but now it's almost a total anomaly -- that just doesn't happen much. I always felt like once you lock into the right bunch of people, you try to do the best by them that you can. So, we've been able to stay together a long time, and I think one thing that makes it worthwhile for people to come see us as an act." Keen's act and stage presence more than attest to his career's longevity and its subsequent opportunities.

Waylon Payne hasn’t felt this good in a long time.

“I’m working again,” Payne says. “It’s good for a man to work. I’m a singer and a songwriter––and an actor, I guess. I don’t know what else to do with my life.”

Payne’s onto something. It’s impossible to imagine him in another line of work. His literary way with words is matched only by his delivery: a rat-pack croon swung charmingly off-kilter by a marbles-in-his-mouth Texas drawl, cloaked in an aura that fills any room as it veers between a childlike sweetness and a jungle cat prowl.

“I’m so thankful I’m alive because I could not be real easy,” Payne says. “I feel like I’ve got another shot at this thing, so I need to tell my stories. Somebody else might need to hear them.”

The other shot Payne’s talking about is playing out now. He’s been back in Nashville for about a year, writing songs again for Carnival Music, where he signed his very first publishing deal around eight years ago. He’s also more than four years sober after kicking a methamphetamine habit that should have killed him.

These days, back at Carnival, preparing to record a new record, clear-eyed, and clean, the beloved prodigal has finally found his way back home, both in place and in purpose. It’s a testament to the sheer ferocity of his talent that everyone––loved ones and distant admirers alike––has been waiting for him.

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The Newton Theatre 234 Spring Street
Newton, NJ 07860
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