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Robert Earl Keen

Farm Fresh Onions – 2003 (Audium)

Reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh

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CDs by Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen, for nine albums, has been one of Texas' most consistently pleasing and challenging artists. His songs have been full of dry irony and his perspective has challenged, if not persuaded listeners viewed their day-to-day life. But something went horribly wrong on this 10th outing, the 1st for Nashville's Audium label.

"Farm Fresh Onions" will certainly bring tears to your eyes, but they won't be from joy. This might just be the best evidence that the adage "There's only two kinds of music - good and bad," really is true and this one comfortably fits into the latter. The disc has no focus. The music doesn't meander all over the genre map, it leaps from place to place like a hopped up sphere inside a pinball machine. Some of it rocks, some of it swings, some of it shakes, and all of it fails to strike any type of rational chord.

Rich Brotherton, a Keen bandmember is as much to blame as Keen himself. The artist has been known more for what he says than how he says it but the message here is often submerged to the point of drowning behind the sheer power of the band. Keen just doesn't have the pipes to holler above all the noise. It isn't often that a disc is released, or escapes, without a single high point. But "Farm Fresh Onions" certainly tests even the most generous spirits to find a redeeming moment. Those with a large number of Keen discs in their musical libraries will likely be very disappointed with this.