The Houston-born singer-songwriter leaves us with a serenade before he’s gotta go.
Maybe the road doesn’t go on forever after all.
After more than four decades of live performing, the prodigious and prolific Robert Earl Keen has announced plans to retire from touring. Mind you, he promises to continue writing and recording music, so we can look forward to his adding to the 21 albums he already has under his belt. Right now, however, the Houston-born singer-songwriter is spreading his wings one last time for a swan song tour aptly titled I’m Comin’ Home: 41 Years On The Road.
One of the most beloved songwriters and performers in Texas, Keen has taken his signature anthem “The Road Goes On Forever” as a mantra for his life as a road warrior, usually performing more than 180 dates in any given year and playing to his legions of fans at roadhouses, dance halls, theaters, and festival grounds. Since releasing his debut album, No Kinda Dancer, in 1984, he has sustained a career that has earned him living-legend status in the Americana music world. He’s received many accolades along the way — including 2015’s inaugural BMI Troubadour Award, celebrating songwriters who have made a lasting impact — and his songs have been recorded by George Strait, Joe Ely, Nancy Griffith, Gillian Welch, and The Highwaymen, among many others. He has been inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas A&M University.
Keen is looking forward to reaching one very special stop on his I’m Coming Home itinerary: On April 27, he plans to tape his final appearance on Austin City Limits. He made his debut on the PBS music program in 1989 as part of a Texas Showcase, and has subsequently made four headlining appearances in addition to appearing as a guest of Lyle Lovett in 2000, returning for ACL’s milestone 40th Anniversary special in 2014, and hosting the ACL Hall of Fame in 2019.
“ACL was my Grand Ole Opry,” Keen says. “I watched it religiously, secretly hoping one day I’d hear Terry Lickona’s mellifluous baritone ring out, ‘From Austin, Texas it’s Austin City Limits! Tonight, from the Lone Star State, please welcome Robert Earl Keen!’ When that day came and the secret dream became reality, I left Cloud Nine. I’ve been floating in the ether ever since. I’m humbly grateful to hold a place beside a host of the most gifted musical artists to ever caress a microphone.”
We recently spoke with Robert Earl Keen about his past achievements and future plans. And gracious gent that he is, he didn’t depart before serenading us with one of our favorite Robert Earl Keen songs: “I’ve Gotta Go” from his 2011 album Ready for Confetti.