Mention the name Robert Earl Keen, and several descriptive terms spring to mind – Texas singer-songwriter, career artist, brilliant storyteller, sardonic humorist, poet of the strange and familiar. And now with the release of his latest album, Happy Prisoner, there is what may seem a surprising addition to that list – bluegrass singer.
“I've had a lifelong love of bluegrass,” says Keen. “I've always had an affinity for music that I felt like you'd listen to in your living room. Music that felt real. My mom liked the old hillbilly music, and as a kid, I used to fall asleep listening to an 8-track tape of Jimmie Rodgers' greatest hits. When I was in 9th grade, one of my first dates was taking a girl to a bluegrass festival. That sounds crazy for someone in Texas. But I was fascinated with that music, even though it wasn't part of the gulf coast at all. When I started playing, my first guitar hero was Norman Blake. In college, I had a bluegrass band called the Front Porch Boys, went to fiddle contests, learned a jillion fiddle and old-timey songs. My whole education in music started with bluegrass.
“And that's partly where the album title comes from,” he continues. “I've been listening to it forever, I love it, and so I feel like I'm something of a happy prisoner of bluegrass."
1. Hot Corn, Cold Corn
2. 52 Vincent Black Lightning
3. Footprints in the Snow
4. 99 Years For One Dark Day (feat. Peter Rowan)
5. East Virginia Blues
6. Poor Ellen Smith
7. Long Black Veil
8. This World Is Not My Home
9. T For Texas (feat. Lyle Lovett)
10. Peter Rowan Intro
11. Walls Of Time
12. White Dove
13. Old Home Place
14. Twisted Laurel
15. Wayfaring Stranger (feat. Natalie Maines)