Texas singer and songwriter Robert Earl Keen says gone are the days of "singing real thought-through stuff with real melodies and with real people behind them." The music industry now is in the market for singles over compilations, repetitive rhymes over intelligent lyrics and bands over iconic figures. And iTunes is the ultimate evil, Keen complained Tuesday during a telephone interview.
Texas singer and songwriter Robert Earl Keen says gone are the days of "singing real thought-through stuff with real melodies and with real people behind them."
The music industry now is in the market for singles over compilations, repetitive rhymes over intelligent lyrics and bands over iconic figures. And iTunes is the ultimate evil, Keen complained Tuesday during a telephone interview.
"We're kind of a beat world anymore," he says. "You will rarely hear an electric-guitar solo. The electric-guitar solo ruled the world from '70 to '85."
Keen, a master storyteller who calls himself the "last of the good guys," has been writing and recording music for 30 years. His timeless songs have been recorded by celebrity artists such as George Strait, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Lyle Lovett and the Dixie Chicks.
"If I have a gift, it's not for my voice or my performance; it's my writing," he says.
Last September, Keen released his 16th studio album, "Ready for Confetti," his last record for Nashville-based record label Lost Highway and, possibly, his last record ever.
Typically, Keen retreats to his Texas cabin, Scriptorium, where he spends weeks crafting clever, meticulous narratives, but in the case of "Ready for Confetti," he composed all 10 songs on the road. The result was shorter songs and a more universal body of work. Nonetheless, the album peaked at No. 1 on Americana music charts and also was featured in best-selling novelist Stephen King's "2011 Pop Culture Favorites," published in Entertainment Weekly.
NPR describes Keen's music as "a blend of acoustic, folk balladry and raucous, barroom country." Keen just says, "I'm country music for people who hate country music."
Keen and his band of 20 years — guitarist Rich Brotherton, bassist Bill Whitbeck, drummer Tom Van Schaik and steel guitarist Marty Muse — will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, May 25, at the Rogue Theatre, 143 S.E. H St., Grants Pass.
"This will be the last show Robert Earl Keen will ever play in the valley," he says. "The reason people should see us is we are truly imperfect, and we make no excuse for it. ... There is everything human about us. It's me talking onstage and doing my oddball thing, and you'll hear musicians play stuff that's not exactly like the record. ... If it wasn't for imperfection, the Grateful Dead would never have been anything but a name some stoned guys were talking about in a living room."
Local singer and songwriter Kid Valance, of the Southern Oregon Songwriters Association, will open the show with original roots rock and country blues. Valance will be joined by George Clark on blues harp, Dan Doshier on mandolin and fiddle and Portland singer and songwriter Jumbo Slim on lead guitar. Valance says he opened for Keen 15 years ago at a pub in Lexington, Ky., and is excited to have the opportunity to play with him again.
"One of the things I'm going to say onstage is that if you're a Robert Earl Keen fan, you're going to listen to the words because he writes such great stories," Valance says.
Tickets to the show cost $25. See www.roguetheatre.com or call 541-471-1316.