HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of my very favorite Texas singer/songwriters, Robert Earl Keen. In my books REK is a living legend.
Robert Earl Keen was born January 11, 1956. He grew up on the southwest side of Houston, Texas. His father Robert Earl Keen Sr. was a geologist while his mother was an attorney.
From an early age, Keen excelled in literature and was an avid reader. After graduating high school at Sharpstown in 1974, Keen attended Texas A&M University. With a Bachelor of Arts in English, Keen graduated Texas A&M in 1978.
It was during his days in college station where he met fellow Texas singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett. Keen and Lovett would collaborate to write “The Front Porch Song.”
“The Front Porch Song” is still one of my favorite songs in Robert Earl Keen’s portfolio. I can listen to it over and over. I think it is an essential listen for anyone who is a fan of Folk and/or Americana music.
The song was first released in 1984 on Robert Earl Keen’s debut album, No Kinda Dancer.
Robert Earl Keen’s songs provide a perfect portrait of scenes from all across the Lone Star State and beyond. His songs never get old. His voice is easy to listen to. His songs are written with the skill of a proven storyteller. Not to mention the sensational bluegrass back -up band he has pieced together through the years. I still get mesmerized by the acoustics of his mandolins, guitars, and the occasional fiddle.
Since that 1984 debut album, No Kinda Dancer, Robert Keen now has nineteen records to his name. Every one of them as good if not better than the first.
To echo the words of my little brother, Luke, “I can always have a better day just by listening to Robert Earl Keen sing Corpus Christi Bay.
“I’ve known a whole lot of Bulls in my time and their work is never done”
In this non-traditional Christmas season, I have found joy in my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs. Robert Earl Keen’s, Merry Christmas From the Family and John Prine’s, Christmas in Prison have been annual traditions for me at Christmas time.
My Wife has sometimes been known to call them “stupid” songs. Stupid is not a word I would use to describe such wonderful works of art! These songs bring happiness and good will to all! We even themed our Christmas party a few years ago “Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee” in celebration of REK’s Christmas hit. Listen for yourself and I hope you enjoy!
This year I have added a third song to this Christmas set. How to Make Gravy by Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly.
I stumbled onto this song entirely by accident. I googled Prine’s Christmas in Prison but was led to an article about a different Christmas song. Much like my Christmas pick from Prine, How to Make Gravy is also set in prison. The main character of the song, Joe is writing home to Dan. It is December 21st and Joe who is stuck in prison is sending his family his Christmas Cheer. He is also a little concerned about how the Christmas dinner is going to turn out without him there to over see the kitchen.
Who’s gonna make the gravy now? I bet it won’t taste the same.
Just add flour salt a little red wine and don’t forget a dollop of tomato sauce for sweetness and that extra tang.
In 1996 Paul Kelly was asked to record a song for an annual charity album. Organizers notified Kelly that the song he originally chose to cover had already appeared on a previous year’s compilation. They encouraged him to write an original.
With no shortage of Christmas music out there Kelly wanted to pen something that was entirely of his own making.
“Why Can’t they get there? Maybe they’re overseas and they can’t get home. Then I thought, oh he’s in prison.”
He says the song sort of wrote itself from there.
To be honest, before hearing this song, the only things I knew about Australian Prison was what I learned by watching Wentworth on Netflix.
How to Make Gravy was originally released on November 4 1996. Now over a decade later the song still gets played at all of Paul Kelly’s live shows.
Fans of the song have dubbed December 21, How to Make Gravy Day.
After finding this guy I started listening to some other songs by him. He is a talented singer and one of the better songwriters that I have come across recently. So what if he’s Australian? Paul Kelly would fit right in with the Austin Music Scene.
“Song writing is mysterious to me. I still feel like a total beginner. I don’t feel like I have got it nailed yet.”
Paul, I think you nailed it a long time ago! I just have one question, Did Joe ever get out on good behavior?
Sometime ago, in what now seems as a lifetime ago, I picked up a James McMurtry CD at the Luckenbach dancehall. I only chose the CD because I had been a long- time fan of his father, author Larry McMurtry. As soon as I had the first song on the album, I realized this stuff was definitely no Lonesome Dove.
“James McMurtry is a true Americana poet – actually he is a poet regardless of genre”
McMurtry’s music is about real life America. The stories that he tells are from the heart and they could fit into anybody’s lifestyle. The song by him that is currently stuck in my head is “Out Here In TheMiddle.” This song could fit anywhere in America. It’s honest and soulful lyrics tell a story about stuff that might just happen to any of us. “Out Here In The Middle” has also been covered by another of my favorite artists Robert Earl Keen.
Some of McMurtry’s songs share his political views. Some of the views, I may not entirely agree with. However, that does not mean I do not like his music. James McMurtry’s lyrics are his truths. You either like James McMurtry or you don’t. I do not see any in between with him. The fact is that he is one of the best songwriters in this time.
“The simple fact is that James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation…”
Stephen King- Entertainment Weekly
Austin Texas based James McMurtry has been making records since the 80’s. Too Long in The Wasteland was the first piece that I heard from him, and I have been hooked every since.
Too Long in the Wasteland was McMurtry’s debut album. The album was co- produced by John Mellencamp. During the time Mellencamp was working on a film that was scripted by McMurtry’s father, Larry McMurtry.
“James writes like he’s lived a lifetime.”
James was born in Ft. Worth Texas His father is an acclaimed author and his mother an English teacher. It was his father who gave James his first guitar at the age of seven. He was raised not far from Washington D.C. in Leesburg, Virginia. Writing is definitely in his blood. In his teens he began picking and writing some. James studied English and Spanish in college. It was while in college in Tucson, Arizona that James first began performing his own songs in front of audiences. McMurtry relocated to San Antonio, Texas after college. Returning to his father’s ranch house. A home he called “my father’s itty bitty ranch house crammed with 10,000 books.”
“my father’s itty bitty ranch house crammed with 10,000 books.”
What kicked off James McMurtry’s professional career in singing and songwriting?
In the late 1980’s, a friend asked James to compete in the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk songwriting contest. He became one of six winners that year.
James McMurtry currently has multiple albums under his belt. He is an accomplished singer and songwriter. He has acted in several films. McMurtry’s music has appeared on soundtracks of more than one movie.
A recent Twitter post gave indication that In 2021 there may be plans of James McMurtry making an appearance on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s next album.
In my opinion McMurtry and Hubbard could just be the greatest songwriting duo of all time!
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has officially declared this day “THREETWENTIES AND A TEN” DAY in the great State of Texas.
I saw this on Robert Earl Keen’s fan page on Facebook earlier today, and I did realize that Three Twenties and a Ten was in reference to REK’s song Feeling Good Again.
I had no earthly idea why our governor would designate it Three Twenties and a day. It just hit me.. Today’s date- 10-20-2020. There you have Three twenties and a ten. Absolutely fantastic play on words. Or in this case numbers.. And what a great tribute to this absolutely fantastic TEXAS SINGER-SONGWRITER.
The song is loosely based on a real bar in Bandera Texas. A place called Arkey’s Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon. When Robert Earl Keen lived in Bandera, it was a place that he could go to decompress. The real “Arkey” is said to have built the place, because he had been kicked out of every other saloon in Texas.
Some of the people in the song are based on real people including the one he saw “standin’ on the the stair.”
I looked across the room and saw you standin’ on the stair
And when I caught your eye I saw you break into a grin
Feels so good feelin’ good again
Robert Earl Keen Told Rick Moore of American Songwriter, that the love interest in the song is in reality, Kathleen, his wife, who would come down to Arkey’s to check on him from time to time.
The lyrics to the song are like reading from a novel. My cluttered mind gets a perfect image of the town, the bar, the feelings,even what Dan and Margarita look like. Not many songs are written with that depth. Add the guitar picking and you’ve got one of the most perfect songs.
“Feelin’ Good Again” was written by Robert Earl Keen. The song was first featured on the album Walking Distance that released in 1998 on AristaRecords. All but one song on this album were written by Robert Earl Keen. This was Robert Keen’s eight album release.
The song always leaves me in a better place than I was in before giving it a spin. I love that about Robert Earl Keen. His music is worth listening to over and over. I have seen him do this song live at least four times and it is still as good as the first time that I heard it.. 10/20/2020 I’m happy to be celebrating THREE TWENTIES AND A TEN DAY here in TEXAS!
God Bless Governor Abbott and the great State of Texas.
But I reached into my pocket found three twenties and a ten It feels so good feelin’ good again.
On March fourth of this year, I married my soul mate in Lincoln County, New Mexico. We like to say we got married March forth as it was on that day that we marched forth to new beginnings. Prior to this journey, which was approximately a 4 hour car ride from our home, I created a playlist. On my Itunes account it lives. The playlist simply called “Wedding”. This playlist consists of 15 songs and lasts 55 minutes.
Every time that I get to hear one of these songs it reminds me of her, my best friend, the love of my life, my UnNi.
#1- Blessings by Florida Georgia Line.
“ First time I met you, knew I never could forget you, girl you always saw the blue skies past the rain clouds in my eyes.“
The very first line in the song says so much. We first met at a conference I attended for Alcoholics Anonymous in the Spring of 2010. I had spent some time away as a ward of the State of Texas and had only been out of a halfway house for a month.
I was learning to live sober. UnNi was going to school to become a substance abuse counselor. She worked in a treatment center. She was so beautiful. I had feelings for her from the very first time I saw her.
#2- Millionaire by Chris Stapleton.
“They say love is more precious thangold Can’t be bought and it can’t be sold.”
I used to think that I was measured by the possessions that I had. Money and Power were status symbols that I thought would either make or break me. UnNi showed me that love was the “ultimate gift”. I know that she loves me and I love her. I would lay down my life for her. I will do anything in my power to give her everything I have. She also showed me how to reconnect with my Higher Power, my faith and find the never ending love of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus Christ the Son of Man.
#3- Prayed For You by Matt Stell. UnNi and I first saw this guy at a concert we attended with our friends Matthew and Sondra. Matt Stell was the opening act for Clay Walker. This song really touched me and UnNi too.
“Cause every single day, before Iknew your name I couldn’t seeyour face, but I prayedfor you.”
These lyrics really touched me deep down. I had been in other relationships. I had been married before. I thought I had been in love once or twice, but I had never considered praying for what God wanted for me.
Up to this point I had lived most all of my life on impulse. It was a roller coaster of highs and lows, only considering what was good for me and what made me happy for the moment.
I had met UnNi years before we ever dated. We hung out some and talked. I considered her a good friend. She had been there for me through some rough patches in my life. She had seen me go through some things as I had also seen her life change in many ways.
I was going through a pretty rough patch. I was ending another relationship, had lost control of my children and was only seconds away from throwing in the towel on my sobriety. When one day I sat down to truly seek God for some sort of direction.
It was conference time again and I knew that every time I would make the trek to Ft Davis I would see her face. I hoped this time it would be the same. So I messaged her on Facebook and she said she would go. We made plans to hang out.
We reconnected our friendship and soon began to date. I know God put her in my life. I know she was my answered prayer. I am forever grateful that UnNi is in my life. I still can’t believe that she’s my wife!
#4- Your Smile Takes MyBreath Away– by Ryan Kirkland. Just before we planned to marry, My second cousin Ryan Kirkland recorded his first song. The song is available on Itunes and Amazon.
“You can bringme to myknees, with just one wink, your smile takes my breath away.”
I feel that way every time I look at my UnNi. She takes my breath away every single day. I feel like the luckiest guy on earth just being able to wear her wedding band on my finger.
I heard from an old timer in AA just the other day, that he would never leave his “Honey Bunny”. Not only had he made a commitment to her that day in that church, He had a made a commitment to God.
I shall never forget that commitment I made that day in early March of 2020. The start of a new beginning and the start of a long and happy life with the person who God intended for me.
#5 Stealing Electricity by Tom Russell. This is the strangest love song you ever heard. UnNi thinks my music is strange.
This song starts out with a guy who dies while trying to steal electricity and how the voltage running through him made his heart go “d-da”.
“Hey baby, ain’t that just likeyou and me? Loveis like stealing electricity, Two hearts goD-da, d-da, d-da, da.”
Our hearts beat to the same music. We made our commitment. We became one. The bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:12 A cord of threestrands isnot easily broken.
The three strands represent UnNi and I. Our hearts only beat because God, The Third Strand gives us the “electricity”. He is our power and our light. He holds us together.
#6 Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison.
“Slipping and sliding All along the waterfall with you My brown-eyed girl.”
My wife has these big brown eyes. I could look into them all day long. It’s in those big round eyes that I can see her thoughts. They sparkle when she’s happy. They fade when she’s angry. They are wet when she’s sad.
I hope I make her brown eyes sparkle more often than not. I love my brown eyed girl. She makes my heart smile. We have a lot of laughs together and we enjoy many of the same things. She is my rock. My brown eyed girl.
#7 In Spite of Ourselves by John Prine. UnNi and I both enjoy singing karaoke. One year for Christmas, we bought each other a karaoke machine. Valentines Day of 2017 we recorded ourselves singing this song, in the style of John Prine and Iris Dement. It will forever be our song.
“In spite of ourselves, We’llend upsittin’ on arainbow, Against all odds,Honey, we’re the big door prize.”
John Prine / Iris Dement
I often have to remember to look beyond the end of my nose. I can be selfish and self centered. That causes a lot of trouble in my relationship. This song reminds me of the prize and to play the tape to the end. I have to pause and think before I act or react.
UnNi has done more than she knows to teach me these things about myself and to show me to treat others in the way that I want to be treated. She has taught me to stand up for what I believe in. Yet, she also shows me how to do it tactfully and respectfully. Sometimes I still fall short on this concept, but I am certainly a better man than I was and I owe that all to her.
#8 Loving Her Was Easier by Kris Kristofferson. I have always believed this was one of the prettiest songs ever written.
Last October, UnNi and I got to see Kris Kristofferson live at the Wagner Noel. This was one of those concerts I got to scratch off of my bucket list.
I can’t pick a favorite line in this song. Every line is perfect poetry. Every line reminds me of her. She is perfect and hearing this perfect song with such a perfect partner is one of the highlights of my life.
“Talking of tomorrow and the money, love and time we had to spend.”
If I die tomorrow, this is one of those songs I would want played at my funeral. I hope UnNi knows how special she made each day of my life.
#9 Just Breathe by Willie and Lukas Nelson.
“Did I say that I needyou? Did I say that Iwant you? Ohif Ididn’tI’m a fool yousee, no one knows this more than me.”
Willie Nelson/ Lukas Nelson
This is a song that relaxes me even on the worst of days. UnNi and I have tried to sing it a few times. We can’t seem to hit those high notes. We discovered this song together. It means so much to us both.
We both have our own struggles and issues and we are both seeking solution rather than creating more drama and chaos. When we are together we are much stronger than when we are apart. When we remember to just breathe and not let the things we do not have control of overwhelm us, our life is better.
UnNi makes me a better man.
I hope that I bring that breath of fresh air into her life as well.
#10 Love Abides by Tom Russell and Iris Dement.
“Hey look how far we’ve come, do we knowwho weare?Stranded on a mountain top trying to catch a falling star.”
This is another song we do together in karaoke. This is another song that reminds me that we are stronger together. It reminds me of the perfect love that we have for each other. Remembering where I came from and the direction that I want my life to go.
UnNi is a planner.
I am a dreamer.
Most of the time when I have a dream, she plans on how to make that dream become a reality.
Like for example, this blog.
I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember. She set forth a plan to make this dream become a reality. She set up this website and teaches me as she learns how to operate it.
Now, You as our reader, gets to experience this side of our life.
I hope you enjoy what you are reading, as much as we enjoy writing to you.
#11 Love me Anyway and #12 True Love both by Pink. These songs are pretty brutal but it’s an honest description of how our life can be.
“Even if I see your scars Even if Ibreak your heartIf we’re a million milesapart Do you thinkyou’d walk away?”
“Sometimes I hate every single stupid wordyou saySometimes I wanna slapyou in your whole face.”
We have had some big fights. Have gone through some pretty big stuff over the years. I choose to stay. She chooses to let me.
We get closer every day. We are learning to communicate and to express our feelings.
In my mind there is absolutely nothing that could keep me away from her. I feel feelings that I have never felt when I upset her. I can see my part today, and admit when I am wrong. She can do that too.
I have never had a love like this.
Once again as an old timer in AA often tells me, “ 9 out of 10 times she’s Honey Bunny, 1 out of 10 times she’s Huffy Bunny and when she is Huffy Bunny, there’s only one person in that situation that can shut the hell up, and that person is me.”
Learning our strengths and weaknesses and learning to put our differences aside has made a huge impact on my relationship.
Pause when agitated.
Sometimes one of us just has to walk away.
I am grateful that we can work through the rough times. We agree that divorce isn’t the option today.
When we are good, we are great.
That is the way it is most days.
#13 Gringo Honeymoon by Robert Earl Keen. Last Christmas mom gave us concert tickets to see Robert Earl Keen.
I personally have seen him play live more times than any other artist. This show was different. Besides being in the front row, I was there with UnNi, My Wife.
“We were so close I could see his tongue moving while he sang.”
That’s what she likes to say when I brag about how great the seats were.
She had never heard of REK until she met me. I have showed her a world of music that she still thinks is strange, but I think that it is growing on her.
The day that we walked out of that courthouse in Carrizozo I was the happiest I had ever been. We found a Museum where we stopped to take some pictures. I have a picture of her in her wedding dress, next to a big cactus. She was the sexiest woman I had ever seen. She still is today.
“ We were standin’ ona mountaintop Wherethe cactus flowersgrow, I waswishin’ that the world would stop.When you said we’d better go.”
Robert Earl Keen
Did I mention she was a planner?
#14 Leather and Lace Don by Stevie Nicks and DonHenley. For a guy who never liked female artists, after meeting UnNi I found a whole bunch I really love.
This song was one I fell in love with around the same time I really started falling for UnNi.
Her brother J and sister in law Heather do a great cover of this song with their band Cowboy Drive. Their video features shots from Ft Davis, one of our favorite places to be. The place we first met, the conference I will never forget.
UnNi likes a section of the mountainous terrain where the natural out cropping of rocks took shapes of almost human form. She calls these “the ancestors.”
I hope and pray that the ancestors will always protect her and guide our lives through happiness and harmony.
“I search for somethingI can’t see.”
The other night we were sitting in our hot tub. It was windy out and UnNi told me “I like the wind. It reminds me of God. Even though I can’t see Him, I Know He is there”
#15 What a difference you’ve made in my Life by Ronnie Milsap.
“What a difference you’ve made inmylife.”
UnNi, there’s nothing else I need to say about this song. It is pretty self Explanatory.