I know of Robert Earl Keen's persona more than I know his music. Poet/storyteller backed by a steel guitar and a steady beat, he's a Texas singer/songwriter. And with a couple of decades in the business, he more than earned the right to move beyond beer soaked stages at dimly lit honky tonks to the likes of the Verizon Theater in downtown Houston where I saw him last night with a few hundred of his closest friends.
'Course after an evening of hearing his work up close and personal, I wondered if he's not just as comfortable in some New Mexican cantina than in the well-lit venue (save for the shadow falling on his face due to the large cowboy hat) with the great sound. After he used the signage of a Idaho motel to pen one of his numbers and with topics ranging from the ghostly visitations of Hank Williams to a dysfunctional family Christmas, I was fairly convinced he didn't care where he was as long as he got to recreate his musical characters on a regular basis.
The crowd knew his music by heart. I relied on the good sound system and leaning toward my friend and one of the legion of his fans to ask, "What did he say?" But one line was crystal clear and took my breath with its purity and clarity:
"Feels so good feeling good again . . . "
I'm not sure if such a statement is wasted on the young. They may simply equate it with the day after the morning after. But for me and mine, the line holds the truth behind letting go of years of stress and strain, of releasing one's worries about what other people think, of living in the simple reality that everything isn't necessary and enough is truly enough.
Listening to an artist practicing his craft is just one more means of my own "feeling good again." So glad I did.