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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Robert Earl Keen serves his usual fare

House of Blues, Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 9, 2002

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MA - Robert Earl Keen easily could hand has made a living just staying within the borders of his home state of Texas

But the pride of thousands of Texas music lovers isn't afraid to venture outside of his hometurf and attempt to demonstrate his popularity elsewhere either. Yet , as it did on this night, a Keen concert is likely to draw a steady throng of young 20 somethings from Texas who aren't afraid to hoot and hollar or even sing along.

There really is no secret as to what makes Keen tick. His singing has never been his greatest strength, though he seems to be getting better with age in delivering his vocals as he did on this particular night.

Instead, Keen has a songwriter's sharp sense and wit. Simply put, the guy can write a song. His most recent album for Lost Highway - he is now off the label - was perhaps his strongest ever.

As to what does and doesn't work in concert, for Keen, that means a meat and potatoes kind of show with very well received songs like "Merry Xmas from the Family," "Gringo Honeymoon" and the traditional closer to the regular set of "The Road Goes on Forever," written by Keen, but made more famous by fellow Texan Joe Ely.

Keen also is very well helped by a band that knows its way around a song like Marty Muise on pedal steel and Rich Brotherton on guitar.

This is all well and good, and Keen certainly knows how to entertain, but sometimes there's a sense of a lack of vitality in delivering the goods.

Keen has achieved enough popularity to keep his career going for a long time and probably could continue doing so.