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In the Late Bright

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Album Review

Tommy Keene is best known to smart pop obsessives for the superb songwriting that's dominated the handful of great albums he's released since 1984, including Songs from the Film, The Real Underground, and Ten Years After. But Keene has also established himself as a first-class guitarist, having toured as a sideman with the likes of Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard, and on his 2009 album, In the Late Bright, Keene has given his guitar work a greater prominence than on many of his previous albums. No, In the Late Bright isn't dominated by ten-minute guitar workouts full of Eddie Van Halen style acrobatics (or even the manic soloing Keene used to close out his brilliant cover of Lou Reed's "Kill Your Sons"), but the five-minute instrumental "Elevated" demonstrates how much menace and atmosphere Keene can conjure with his instrument, and the soaring hard rock tone of "The Right Time to Fly" and "Goodbye Jane" find Keene allowing himself a little more room to swagger than usual. And the great guitar work on In the Late Bright is, as usual, in the service of a stack of great songs; his melodies are both hooky and robust, capturing a broad range of deep tonal colors, and with Jon Richardson on drums, this album features some of the most satisfying rock & roll of Keene's long and distinguished career. The big guitars and forceful tone of In the Late Bright are hardly without precedent in Tommy Keene's career — this is one popmeister who's always known how to rock out — but the rich wallop of this disc's best moments make it clear that he isn't slowing down or mellowing with age, and after 2006's fine Crashing the Ether, this shows him continuing to move from strength to strength.


Born: 30 June 1958 in Bethesda, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Hailing from Bethesda, Maryland, Tommy Keene is a guitarist and singer/songwriter who plays and writes melodic guitar-based pop/rock. As a child, Keene played classical piano before picking up guitar and drums. He spent his teenage years drumming in a rock trio called Blue Steel, whose original guitar player, Mike Lofgren, was the younger brother of Nils Lofgren. Consequently, Keene's first notable gig was when Blue Steel opened for Lofgren's band Grin. In 1977, while attending the University of...
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