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Bigger Piece of the Sky

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iTunes Review

Bigger Piece of the Sky was a breakthrough album for Robert Earl Keen, and it is still considered his masterpiece by many fans. Here Keen moves beyond his folk/bluegrass roots and embraces the attitude and instrumentation of rock music. To aid this transition he hired several high profile players, including bassist Garry Tallent (from the E Street Band) and George Marinelli (of Bruce Hornsby & The Range). There is Tom Petty-esque rock in “Wherever Kindness Falls,” and roadhouse uproar in “Amarillo Highway.” But Keen is still a folkie at heart, and he saves his best sentiments for “Paint the Town Beige.” The reading of Terry Allen’s “Amarillo Highway” shows Keen’s love for subverting Texas stereotypes, but Bigger Piece of the Sky also contains some of his best pure country songs, including “Corpus Christi Bay,” “Jesse With the Long Hair” and the understated Western Swing of “Daddy Had a Buick.” Anyone who thinks Keen is “alternative” country should listen to “Crazy Cowboy Dream,” a beautifully wrought folk song that could easily be a hit if George Strait ever decided to sing it.

Customer Reviews

Staggeringly good, impossible to deny.

_A Bigger Piece of Sky_ is a stunning achievement, even for an artist as revered as Robert Earl Keen. I've often heard it said that art mirrors and magnifies aspects of the human condition, allowing us to examine our lives and the world around us in new, useful, and sometimes profound ways. If you believe that to be true, then you need to hear this album. Each song mirrors aspects of reality so convincingly that the album practically creates a reality unto itself. The music, the lyrics, the performances, and the production combine to form a statement so insightful that repeated listens are bound to reveal profound truths--and as hyperbolic as that might sound, I do not say it lightly. I'd actually prefer to be less verbose and artsy here, but describing what this album contains seems akin to trying to find words to accurately describe the sorts of feelings and thoughts that we never discuss with others precisely because we lack the language to do so.
Each song here undeniably works as part of a whole, but if you must sample songs first, I'd recommend "So I Can Take My Rest" and "Corpus Christi Bay". "Rest" is beautiful in the sad, eternal way that sunsets on clear, cold winter evenings are beautiful. The narrator's vulnerability is heartbreaking; when it hits you that he is speaking _for_ you, you may well be moved to tears. "Bay," meanwhile, is one of Keen's many "loveable loser" narratives--and the fact that it happens to be one of his best is aying an awful lot. I worked offshore as an anchor rigger for several years to put myself through college, and from the first time I heard the song, I was amazed at how Keen, in just one story focused on one central character, managed to a evoke so well the feel of life in the offshore oil patch. The lyric mentions that the offshore life "gets down in your blood". Perhaps the best evidence of the truth of that statement, and of Keen's talent as an artist, is that 15 years after my last anchor rigging job I still see the platforms' sodium vapor lights in the darkness and smell the salt water and the diesel fuel and the hot steel cables each time I listen.

I've singled out two songs as examples, but all 11 songs here are evocative and truthful and...well, magnificent in equal measure. So: If you've managed to remain on the fence after reading the reviews here, just buy the album. Listen to it a few times. Let it sink in. You certainly won't regret it, even when the truth of it all hits you in the gut.

REK is the man!

Robert Earl Keen is truly one of the finest songwriters and performers of our time. This is probably my favorite album of his. Amarillo Highway, Corpus Christi Bay, Jesse With the Long Hair, Paint the Town Beige, and Crazy Cowboy Dream are all REK classics. For anyone looking for an intro to his music, Bigger Piece of Sky is the way to go. If you're feeling a bit disillusioned by the seemingly neverending onslaught of Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw style country, pick up an REK record and listen NOW!

Keen's Greatest Album

This album, as a whole, is by far his best work. A great look at the current world with an older, wiser perspective. Keen captures the heart of Texas with this album. If he were to have been born in the same era as Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, etc. then he would be viewed as their equal, if not their superior.


Born: January 11, 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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