Americana music pioneer Robert Earl Keen not only has a good sense of humor that shows in his songs, he also doesn't mind being the object of a few laughs.
At a recent Christmas concert at San Antonio's beautiful Majestic Theatre, Keen came on stage wearing an outfit that looked like it came out of a 1950s Nativity play. His willingness to dress up for the holiday concert (his band also dressed up, but not as lavishly as Keen) was a good indication of the kind of entertainer Robert Earl Keen is.
He wants his audiences to enjoy the music and have a good time and he's willing to go the extra mile to do it.
Keen has a musical history that stretches back around 40 years. He likes to tell the tale, in concert, of him and famed Country singer Lyle Lovett sitting on the porch of a home in Bryan/College Station, bored to tears, trying to find something to do.
He also tells of the two now-icons playing and writing music. It's a comforting vision for a Texan and Americana fan.
Keen's earlier hits include "Corpus Christi Bay" and "Gringo Honeymoon," both of which he played at the Majestic show. (By the way, my wife said she could sit in the beautiful theater and watch people play checkers and still be entertained.)
And Keen's music has just gotten better since then.
"The Road goes on Forever" is probably his best party anthem, but even better is "Feelin' Good Again," a tender song about how luck and lost loves can be reunited.
The Rose Hotel CD and his latest, Ready for Confetti, are great discs. Some of the songs I love from Confetti include "I Gotta Go," "Play a Train Song" and "The Road Goes On and On."
The title of the Majestic concert was "Merry X-mas from the Fam-O-Lee" -- a take on one of his best-known songs -- and that is the song Keen did NOT play before exiting the stage.
In a wink to the audience, he came back to a standing ovation and asked, "So what song do you think we should play?"
He then played what has become a Texas Christmas classic. Just read some of the lyrics if you aren't familiar:
Brother Ken brought his kids with him / The three from his first wife Lynn / And the two identical twins from his second wife, Mary Nell / Of course he brought his new wife Kay / Who talks all about AA / Chain-smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel / The First Noel
Carve the Turkey, turn the ball game on / Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone / Send somebody to the Quickpak Store / We need some ice and an extension chord / A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites /
A box of tampons, some Marlboro Lights / Halleluja everybody say "Cheese" / Merry Christmas from the family
I've always wanted to meet Robert Earl Keen, but haven't gotten the opportunity.
I figure we have a whole lot in common: We're both from Houston; we were both in College Station in the '70s and we're both Aggies; we both love the Hill Country and we're both huge Johnny Manziel fans.
Perhaps some day.
But if you are in the mood for some good Texas music that is REAL, tune in and listen to some REK.
Or better yet, go and see and support LIVE music.
And if you run into him, tell him I'm looking for him.