Porch played a big role in accomplished musicians early days

Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett have been friends since their days in college together at Texas A&M in the early 1980s.

Keen said they used to sit on the front porch of the house they shared, playing their guitars and thinking about where they were going to move when their parents saw their grades.

That type of dry humor has been a staple of both men’s music since they started their recording careers in the 1980s. In fact, they co-wrote a song about the porch and their college life together. It is called “This Old Porch” on Lovett’s debut record and “The Front Porch Song” on Keen’s “No Kinda Dancer.”

Keen started recording in 1984 and has released 10 studio records and four live albums, whereas Lovett started in 1986 and has released 11 studio records and one live album. Both men have played in Grand Junction at least four times each, and both released excellent new recordings in the past month.

Keen’s “Rose Hotel” released on Sept. 29 is his first studio recording since 2005 and, in my opinion, the best record he has made since 2001’s “Gravitational Forces.” Keen wrote or co-wrote nine of the 11 songs on the disc.

An up-tempo cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Flying Shoes” and a countrified cover of Greg Brown’s great “Laughing River,” with vocals from Brown, are the other two songs.

Among the early highlights are the title track, Keen’s tribute to Levon Helm on “The Man Behind the Drums,” “Throwing Rocks,” “On and On,” “Wireless in Heaven” and “Something That I Do” with these clever lyrics: “I am the king of burning daylight, and holdin’ my own / I’ve been doin’, alright, leaving well enough alone. My daddy told me, I was lazy, My momma said, I love you too / I kinda like just, Doin’ nothing, It’s something that I do.”

Keen’s new CD is a must for all of his loyal followers and is sure to make him some new fans as well.

“Natural Forces,” Lovett’s newest CD, is quite a departure from his last CD “It’s Not Big It’s Large” from 2007.

In my opinion, this disc is kind of a mix of “Joshua Judges Ruth” in the sense that it is fairly quiet and introspective and “Step Inside This House” because it is mostly covers of other writers’ songs.

Lovett wrote or co-wrote only five of the 12 songs on the record. Covers include songs from Van Zandt (“Loretta”), Eric Taylor (“Whooping Crane”) and Vince Bell (“Sun and Moon and Stars,” “Don’t You Think I Feel It Too”).

Lovett co-wrote the aptly titled “It’s Rock and Roll” with his friend and former classmate Keen.

Lovett’s own songs are very good, as usual, and include the title track, “Natural Forces,” along with two versions of the hilarious song “Pantry” with these clever and dry-witted lyrics: “Oh, the way to someone’s heart dear, that old expressions true. So long as were apart, here’s my request of you. Don’t cheat on me with corn bread. Don’t cheat on me with beans. Don’t cheat on me with bacon. Cooked up in collard greens. And don’t cheat on me with biscuits, with jelly sweet and blue. Keep it in that place where you know you will be true. Keep it in your pantry, keep it in your pantry, keep it in your pantry, keep it in your pantry!”

What else can be said about that?

You can listen to some of these songs on the radio show I host, Acoustic Sunday, on Drive 105.3 FM this week.


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