Sunday, December 4, 2011


Ok, I am finally out of the blog cave again, this time for a very good reason. I spend most of my time listening to old music because 95% of new music sounds like crap to my ear. I am always hoping for something new to excite me, but most of the time I am disappointed. Then it’s back to the Bob, Merle, Waylon and the usual suspects.

I still hope for the excitement of spinning a new disk and being blown away by what comes out of the speakers. This experience is even sweeter if it is a debut album. Can you remember hearing Are You Experienced, Music from Big Pink or Excitable Boy for the first time? I can.  Unfortunately, those kind of musical moments are few and far between.

A couple of weeks ago when Robert Earl Keen played in Corpus Christi, I got talking to Bill Whitbeck after the show. Bill plays bass in the band but more than that he is an incredible musician who has great taste in music. He likes Bob Dylan as much as I do and can sing like Merle Haggard, which is something, I definitely can’t do. He told me about a band that his son has formed called Sons of Fathers. He said they just released an album and I should check it out. It took me a couple of weeks to get around to it, but I’m glad I did. It is great.

They main players behind Sons of Fathers are David Beck and Paul Cauthen. They came together as a duo but have now added another guitar and drums to round out the band. It is their original compositions and vocals harmonies that make Sons of Fathers such an impressive debut.  The production by Lloyd Maines, who did the same for Robert Earl Keen on his last two albums, captures a clean, authentic sound that compliments the great songwriting on every cut.

All of the songs on the album are good but several are real standouts. The opener, Weather Ballons, has great lyrics and a very catchy tune. Listen to it more than once and it will be stuck in your head. David Beck's upright bass gives the song a nice bottom and teams well with Cauthen's guitar. Someone does a good job on piano as well. Adam and Eve is another great track with more good piano that compliments the lead guitar and singing.

The band has a sound that is hard to categorize. Is it country, alt-country, folk? I’m not sure what to say other than that it has the depth and quality of real roots music. It’s not loud, but it still rocks. There isn't a bad cut on the whole album. The record has a real ensemble feel to it that reminds me of the early work of The Band.

 One of the disadvantages of iTunes is that I am a little in the dark as to who is playing what on each track. It doesn’t really matter because it is that good. I am looking forward to seeing them live the next chance I get.

I am recommending Sons of Fathers highly. It is one of the best CD's of the year. Check it out at Amazon or on iTunes. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I am Ready For Confetti

 Hurricane Irene had me trapped in the house for the last two days. I spent most of this time listening to the great new album from Robert Earl Keen. This fine record broke me out of the blog-lock that has been hanging on me for many moons. Good music will do that.

 Ready For Confetti is the 16th album of Robert Earl Keen's prolific career. Like his last two outstanding albums, What I Really Mean (2005) and Rose Hotel (2009), the record is a great mix of original songs and well-selected covers.  Confetti was produced by Lloyd Maines who also produced Rose Hotel. It includes 10 Keen originals, including a remake of my all time favorite REK song, Paint the Town Beige which was first released on Bigger Piece of Sky (1993).

With the title track, I Gotta Go, Show the World, and Waves on the Ocean, Robert continues to solidify his position as one the best songwriter from the great state of Texas. Like all great songwriters, he has an incredible ability to take vignettes from every day life and write them into songs that paint pictures in your mind.

I first heard the song Ready For Confetti a few months ago and it has been stuck in my head ever since. With it’s catchy lyrics, Rich’s jet engine solo and great background singing, it’s a winner. Not sure if it has to do with REK’s annual trip to Key West Songwriters Festival, but I hear a little calypso/reggae influence in this and Waves on the Ocean. Waves is probably my next favorite on the disk. It is another catchy tune with beautiful lyrics. 

People who know Robert say that you never want to cross him or you might end up in one of his songs. It has happened in the past and with The Road goes On and On it happened again. Toby Keith was obviously not paying attention in third grade when the teacher explained plagiarism. Most REK fans who heard his Bullets in the Gun thought it sounded a lot like The Road Goes On Forever. Guess Robert did too. I don't think he liked it.

Robert has had good luck covering songs by James McMurtry and others. With Play a Train Song, he has taken a great song by his good friend and excellent songwriter Todd Snider and made it his own. It's one of my favorites on the record.

Robert Earl Keen is best known for his energetic live shows. By touring for years with his band of great musicians, he has earned a loyal following. Night after night, his fans are rewarded with well-played songs from his catalogue mixed with tasty covers of songs from James McMurtry, Greg Brown, and Todd Snider. Great material played by a band that really works together.

 Every REK show is a chance for the fans to sing along, drink a few cold beers, and chant ROBERT EARL KEEN in unison.  Each night ends with his signature anthem The Road Goes on Forever. It is a great closer, an opportunity for the band to stretch out and send everyone home happy.

That said, I strongly believe that ultimately Robert's career will be defined by his songwriting. With each album, he continues to add to his impressive catalogue. Ready For Confetti is another step forward. Available tomorrow on iTunes and from Amazon. Pick it up.