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Live At the Ryman

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Album Review

Live at the Ryman is the fourth live album from Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen, and while there isn't much arguing that the man is a terrific performer who knows how to work a crowd, the puzzler is, does the world really need another document of Keen on-stage? It's not an unfair question, but at very least Live at the Ryman captures him on a better than average night. There are no real surprises in the set list on Live at the Ryman, which seems to be the way his audience wants it — the crowd on this disc is loud and wildly enthusiastic, frequently singing along with Keen and chanting his name between songs as if he were some sort of conquering hero, and Keen and his band serve up the "hits" just the way the fans want 'em. Thankfully, Keen seems pretty jazzed by the crowd's enthusiasm (no wonder, since he was getting such a warm welcome at Nashville's former home of the Grand Ol' Opry), and he and his band deliver these 14 songs with a large portion of energy. Keen's road band is in solid form here (with the great Danny Barnes sitting in on banjo), and though Keen has sung these songs with more soul, he's never short on fire and brings a showman's passion to the presentation. If the song selection is a bit predictable, why wouldn't you want to hear Keen sing "Gringo Honeymoon," "I'm Comin' Home," "Corpus Christi Bay," or even "Merry Christmas from the Family" on-stage? Live at the Ryman was obviously recorded for Robert Earl Keen's loyal fans, and they won't feel shortchanged by this disc, even if it covers ground he's covered several times before.


Born: 11 January 1956 in Houston, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Among the large contingent of talented songwriters who emerged in Texas in the 1980s and '90s, Robert Earl Keen struck an unusual balance between sensitive story-portraits ("Corpus Christi Bay") and raucous barroom fun ("That Buckin' Song"). These two song types in Keen's output were unified by a mordant sense of humor that strongly influenced the early practitioners of what would become known as alternative country music. Keen, the son of an oil executive father and an attorney mother, was a native...
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