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CD Review: Gravitational Forces - Robert Earl Keen

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Reviewed by Jennifer Webb

Robert Earl Keen, surprisingly (to me), is from Bandera, Texas, which is the same place two of the coolest brothers around (Charlie and Bruce Robison) come from. Is it a coincidence or is there really some serious talent in the water in that tiny little town?

"Gravitational Forces" is Robert Earl Keen's ninth album and is his debut on the Lost Highway Record Label. President George W. Bush, along with his twin daughters have listed this man as one of their favorite singers.

Although even the Texas Country musician's dream of making it to the country charts, most are content with traveling

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around Texas or Oklahoma and performing for those types of crowds. In "Hall of Fame," Robert Earl Keen confirms his feelings on that particular subject; he says throughout the song "My home ain't in the Hall of Fame, you can go there but you won't find my name. My songs aren't all on the Top 40 Radio, I'll keep the old back forty for my home." He is happier hitchhiking around rather than riding around in fancy, decked-out tour buses.

"Wild Wind" starts out with a nifty sounding harmonica intro and then the story of such people as Good Time Charlie, Wanderin' Bill, and Too Tall Annie begins amongst a two-step beat. Annie's might just be the worst though because the police found her old ex husband in his new pickup truck (in the bottom of the river). The whole song is sung in a nonchalant/ matter-of-factly way and his whole attitude is summed up as "That's a song I've been singing for years, that's the way the wild winds blow."

When I heard the beginning music of "I Still Miss Someone," for some reason I got the immediate feeling of an old-time country song. As you can tell by only the song title, this song is about missing his old flame. He says he knows there is someone for him out there, but he still misses his blue-eyed someone. Everywhere he looks he sees her and thinks about her, and he wonders if she is sorry she left him.

"Walkin' Cane" is one of those songs that I love from the very start of it. It is also one of those indescribable times where, perhaps, the beat and the music make such a perfect combination you cannot help but move in some way as you give it a listen.

I was already familiar with the slow song, "Snowin' On Raton," only Pat Green and Natalie Maines' (of the Dixie Chicks) version instead of Robert's. The one on this album is a little bitter softer and more subdued which gives it another sound completely. The song is about getting over the hills (which represent life's obstacles) and becoming a better person for it.

A hard to explain song on "Gravitational Forces," is the title cut and last song on the album. It sounds like a very tired Robert Earl Keen was also very bored and decided to look around at the scenery of a particular club and make up a song as he went. He starts out talking about the scenery but then moves along to spaceships and the solar system. Everytime he mentions solar system you hear a cell phone ring that is meant to be what I guess is the spaceship that is flying around.

Before listening to this album, I was only familiar with the name Robert Earl Keen and only a couple songs ("The Road Goes on Forever" being one of them), but now after listening to these eleven songs I might have to check out his older stuff to what other cool songs he has written and/or recorded. His voice is unmistakable and would not be easily imitated.

All graphics © Jennifer Webb, except the album cover, used with permission of Lost Highway Records.

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