$37 – $58

Robert Earl Keen - Countdown To Christmas

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Variety Playhouse

1099 Euclid Ave NE

Atlanta, GA 30307

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Robert Earl Keen - Countdown To Christmas at Variety Playhouse

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Reserved seats are available in the center section.

General admission seats are available in the side sections and balcony.

Pit is standing room only.

Robert Earl Keen

"The road goes on forever ..."It's not always easy to sum up a career - let alone a life's ambition - so succinctly, but those five words fromRobert Earl Keen's calling-card anthem just about do it. You can complete the lyric with the next five words- the ones routinely shouted back at Keen by thousands of fans a night ("and the party never ends!") - justto punctuate the point with a flourish, but it's the part about the journey that gets right to the heart ofwhat makes Keen tick. Some people take up a life of playing music with the goal of someday reaching adestination of fame and fortune; but from the get-go, Keen just wanted to write and sing his own songs,and to keep writing and singing them for as long as possible."I always thought that I wanted to play music, and I always knew that you had to get some recognition inorder to continue to play music," Keen says. "But I never thought of it in terms of getting to be a big star. Ithought of it in terms of having a really, really good career and writing some good songs, and gettingonstage and having a really good time."Now three-decades on from the release of his debut album - with eighteen other records to his name,thousands of shows under his belt and still no end in sight to the road ahead - Keen remains as committedto and inspired by his muse as ever. And as for accruing recognition, well, he's done alright on that front,too; from his humble beginnings on the Texas folk scene, he's blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trailthat's earned him living-legend (not to mention pioneer) status in the Americana music world. And thoughthe Houston native has never worn his Texas heart on his sleeve, he's long been regarded as one of theLone Star State's finest (not to mention top-drawing) true singer-songwriters. He was still a relativeunknown in 1989 when his third studio album, West Textures, was released - especially on the triple bill heshared at the time touring with legends Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark - but once fellow Texas icon JoeEly recorded both "The Road Goes on Forever" and "Whenever Kindness Fails" on his 1993 album, Love and Danger, the secret was out on Keen's credentials as a songwriter's songwriter. By the end of the decade,Keen was a veritable household name in Texas, headlining a millennial New Year's Eve celebration in Austinthat drew an estimated 200,000 people. A dozen years later, he was inducted into the Texas HeritageSongwriters Hall of Fame along with the late, great Van Zandt and his longtime friend from Texas A & M,Lyle Lovett.The middle child of a geologist father and an attorney mother, Keen was weaned on classic rock (inparticular, the psychedelic blues trio Cream) and his older brother's Willie Nelson records - but it was his younger sister's downtown Houston celebrity status as a "world-champion foosball player" that exposed him to the area's acoustic folk scene. By the time he started working on his English degree at Texas A&M,he was teaching himself guitar and setting his poetic musings to song. That in turn led to a college fling with a bluegrass ensemble (featuring his childhood friend Bryan Duckworth, who would continue to play fiddle with Keen well into the '90s) and front-porch picking parties with fellow Aggie Lovett at Keen's rental house- salad days captured in spirit on the Keen/Lovett co-write, "The Front Porch Song," which both artists would eventually record on their respective debut albums.

While Lovett's self-titled debut was released on major-label Curb Records, Keen took the road less travelled, self-financing and producing 1984's No Kinda Dancer and leasing it to the independent label Rounder Records, which issued it on its Philo imprint. "It was difficult, because I didn't know what I was doing ... I literally opened up the phonebook and looked for studios," Keen recalls. "I basically put it all together through brute force and ignorance, but I was shocked with how well it worked out and very happy with it. We had a release party at Butch Hancock's Dixie Bar and Bustop, and Lyle and Nanci Griffith and a lot of those people who were a part of the Austin folkie scene came out."Keen himself had already started to make quite a name for himself on that scene, thanks to four years of constant regional gigging and winning the Kerrville Folk Festival's prestigious New Folk songwriting competition in 1983. After his debut's release, he began touring more and more outside of the state lines, eventually moving to Nashville in 1986. Keen's stint in Music City, U.S.A., lasted just under two years, but he returned to Texas armed with a publishing deal, a new label (another indie, Sugar Hill), and a national booking agent. He closed the decade with 1988's The Live Album and the following year's West Textures, the album that marked the debut of "The Road Goes on Forever" and, not inconsequently, kicked his career No Depression) embraced Keen as one of its prime movers. In the wake of albums like 1997's Picnic and '98's Walking Distance (both released on major-label Arista), one would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between a rabid Robert Earl Keen crowd at Texas' legendary Gruene Hall and those at New York City joints like Tramps and the Bowery Ballroom. Little wonder, then, that when the songwriter-revering "Americana" style was officially recognized by the industry 1998, Keen was the genre's first artist to be featured on the cover of the radio trade magazine Gavin.

The '90s may have been a boom period for Keen, but his momentum hasn't ebbed a bit since the turn of the century - nor has his pursuit of continued growth as a writer and artist. If anything, his output from the last decade has been marked by some of the most adventurous music of his career. "Wild Wind," an unforgettable highlight from Gravitational Forces, his Gurf Morlix-produced 2001 debut for the Nashvillebased Americana label Lost Highway, captured the character (and characters) of a small Texas town with a cinematic eye reminiscent of The Last Picture Show; but the album's title track also found Keen wryly experimenting with spacey, beatnik jazz. For the freewheelin', freak-flag-flying Farm Fresh Onions (2003, Audium/Koch), Keen and producer Rich Brotherton (his longtime guitarist) took the band into the proverbial garage to knock out their most rocking set of songs to date - most notably the psychedelic raveup of the title track. Brotherton also produced the more rootsy but equally playful What I Really Mean (2005, E1 Music), but Lloyd Maines was back at the helm for 2009's eclectic The Rose Hotel and 2011's spirited Ready for Confetti (both released by Lost Highway). The later was especially well received by fans and critics alike, with AllMusic's Thom Jurek raving, "Ready for Confetti is, without question, Keen's most inspired and focused project in nearly 20 years." His latest project released in 2015, “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions” was a straight –ahead “love postcard to bluegrass”. This was something Keen had wanted to do for a long time and it was now or never. Keen is ranked Billboard’s No. 2, 2015 Bluegrass Artist of the year. His current recording, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions, charted as 2015’s Top 5 album at Americana Radio and Billboard’s 2015 No. 2 album on the Bluegrass Albums chart.

Earlier this year, Keen played three weeks of sold-out theater dates with Lyle Lovett, just two longtime college friends swapping songs on acoustic guitars like they used to do on Keen's front porch in College Station. But the lion's share of his concert schedule still finds him playing full-tilt with his seasoned road and studio band: Brotherton on guitar, Bill Whitbeck on bass, Tom Van Schaik on drums, and Marty Muse on steel guitar. "I've been with this band for 20 years now," Keen says proudly. "I used to think that was just sort of an interesting fact, but now it's almost a total anomaly - that just doesn't happen much. I always felt like once you lock into the right bunch of people, you try to do the best by them that you can. So we've been able to stay together a long time, and I think one thing that makes it worthwhile for people to come see us as an act is the fact that it's not like we're trying to work it all out onstage - we've already worked everything out."

REK has had the honor of working with music legends Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Eric Church, Gary Clark, Jr. among others. He was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. In March 2015, Robert Earl Keen was recognized as the first recipient of BMI's official Troubadour Award. Keen is an active member of NARAS and was invited to be a participant in the prestigious "Grammys On The Hill" where he sang the National Anthem at the opening ceremony and was a member of the delegation that lobbied US Congress to support musicians' rights, specifically the "Fair Pay for Fair Play Act". But the road goes on and on, with no time for resting on laurels. Not that Keen's complaining. "I had a relatively open schedule for 2016 back at the beginning of the year, but it has just filled in like you wouldn't believe," he marvels during a rare day off in Kerrville, Texas (where he lives with his wife and two daughters). "I've broke my record this year - I've packed for five trips at one time, because I wasn't going to be starting any of them in the same place. It's been crazy! It isn’t always easy being Robert Earl Keen, but somebody’s got to do it. And now more than ever, he’s up to the task and loving every minute of it.

Shinyribs

Once you’ve seen Shinyribs’ Kevin Russell on-stage and heard his band’s music, it’s impossible to forget. Known for his outrageous outfits and antics, he’s a regular fashion icon, liable to turn up in anything from his lime-green sherbet leisure suit to a flashing LED cloak, which he donned for a soulful performance of “East Texas Rust” on the award-winning PBS show Austin City Limits. Born and raised in Beaumont, East Texas, Russell’s been variously dubbed (mostly by himself), the Baryshnikov of the Big Thicket, the Pavarotti of the Pineywoods, the Shakespeare of Swamp Pop, or the Shiniest Man in Showbidniz. One of the pioneers of Americana as a member of The Gourds, Russell took his musical inspiration from the fertile Ark-La-Tex turf. In the immortal words of the title track to their most recent album, “I Got Your Medicine,” Shinyribs have the cure to whatever ails you, moving that ass until you’re a helpless member of the Kevin Russell-led “all-in” conga line which snakes through the audience at the close of every show. “It’s the universal dance anyone can do,” he says. “Nobody feels self-conscious or out of place. It’s a great way to get everybody involved. You can’t really top that.” As Austin royalty, Shinyribs are one of the music world’s best-kept secrets, but not for long. The eightpiece outfit was recently named Best Austin Band for 2017, while I Got Your Medicine was tapped as Album of the Year at the Chronicle’s prestigious Austin Music Awards. Balding with a scraggly beard and an unapologetic gut, the 50-year-old Russell boasts the indelible spirit and nudge-nudge, winkwink playful quality of a man forever young, who points to the likes of Tony Joe White and the Coasters for his Shinyribs-tickling, mind-expanding, butt-shaking “is he for real” sense of humor.

The crack eight-piece band features, aside from Russell, keyboardist Winfield Cheek, bassist Jeff Brown and drummer Keith Langford, along with the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns (trumpet player Tiger Anaya and Mark Wilson on sax and flute) and the Shiny Soul Sisters (Alice Spencer and Kelley Mickwee), as well as occasional on-stage appearances by the Riblets, Shinyribs’ very own dance troupe. About his status as a local hero, Russell says, “The competition is pretty serious here in Austin. I don’t know how big a fish I am, but I certainly flop around a lot.” Kevin Russell might not take himself too seriously, but he is dead-on serious about the eclectic blend of music he favors, combining Texas blues, New Orleans R&B funk, horn-driven Memphis soul, country twang, border music, big band swing, roots-rock, Tin Pan Alley and even punk into a raucous mix that includes such out-of-the-blue cover nods as David Bowie’s “Golden Years” (a posthumous tribute with an unlikely “On Broadway” groove) or the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (interpolated into a live version of “Poor People’s Store,” his populist “jingle” for an imaginary bargain basement outlet). Russell’s Shinyribs have recorded four albums since starting out as his “solo” side project, starting with 2010’s Well After Awhile, followed by Gulf Coast Museum (2013), Okra Candy (2015) and last

year’s award-winning I Got Your Medicine. The band’s impending release came to fruition with demos Kevin started in his backyard studio, with Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin providing some of the horn arrangements. Russell’s parents were both music lovers, his father teaching him his first guitar chords, “then pretty much letting me go my own way.” As a teenager, he went through a hard-core punk phase, attracted to west coast acts like Minutemen, Hüsker Dü and Gun Club, followed by an alternative/college fascination with R.E.M., the dBs and the Replacements. “I was raised in an era where there were no rules, where marketing and specialization hadn’t yet become the status quo,” he says of his vast musical canvas. “I think of radio as playing all styles of music; everything is up for grabs. I never wanted to play just one kind of music. Honestly, I don’t know how to do anything else. I love mashing things together you wouldn’t expect, like a donut taco. “My thing is to love and respect everyone, to accept everyone for who they are. You can be whoever you want to be at a Shinyribs show… that’s what I’m trying to convey with my music and the performance.” The past flows through Russell’s aesthetic sensibility to become something, well, Shiny and new. “It’s cool to see the old stuff still works. I’ve taken a great deal from the best showmen I’ve seen over the years. I don’t want people to hero-worship me like a celebrity. This isn’t about me… it’s about us. Making everybody feel special.” His goal remains to create music that makes us feel better about ourselves… even the sad songs. “I feel good when I play and sing this music. I want everybody to experience that same pleasure. I just want to keep serving the music I love, and continue to evolve my art.”

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Variety Playhouse

1099 Euclid Ave NE

Atlanta, GA 30307

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