Robert Earl Keen - Live Dinner Reunion
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Live Dinner Reunion (Dualtone, 2016)

Robert Earl Keen

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Talk about deja vu all over again, Robert Earl Keen's 'new' live album is a two-disc re-living, if you will, of the Texas singer-songwriter's "No. 2 Live Dinner," which was originally recorded in 1990. Performed again in front of an audience at John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas, "Live Dinner Reunion" includes many of Keen's best songs. It also features a few special guests, such as Lyle Lovett and Joe Ely.

This guest list is a little like a who's who of Americana songwriters. Lovett sings a duet with Keen on "T for Texas," while Bruce Robison trades verses for "No Kinda Dancer." The overall feel of the concert date is loose, but focused. Keen may perform in a seeming casual manner, but a song like "Feelin' Good Again" is a sincere celebration of life. It's impossible to hear this song without also feeling good.

The 26-track set (some of these song intros are listed as tracks, so it's not as song-lengthy as you might assume) ends with Ely joining Keen for "The Road Goes on Forever." It's a fitting way to close out the celebration. Keen, like his fellow Texas songwriter colleagues, is a road warrior and troubadour. Sure, he may not party has hard as he did back in 1990, but he's still on that never-ending road singing his songs.

Unlike Lovett, Keen has never attained much mainstream success - in the country realm or otherwise. But the response from this audience, which can be heard chanting his three-part name over and over again at the end, reveals just how dedicated they are. Another concert album at the same venue may seem redundant on the surface, but Keen's songs have always been best served live. Come and get it!

CDs by Robert Earl Keen

Live Dinner Reunion, 2016 Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions, 2015 Ready for Confetti, 2011 The Rose Hotel, 2009 Live at The Ryman, 2006 What I Really Mean, 2005

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