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This Old Porch

Appraisal of Sunday's Texas Heritage Songwriters HOF Awards

By Jim Caligiuri, 1:55PM, Tue. Mar. 6, 2012

Lyle Lovett & Robert Earl Keen (r) at the Moody Theater 3.4.12
Lyle Lovett & Robert Earl Keen (r) at the Moody Theater 3.4.12
photo by Rick Henson

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t dreaming when I saw Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, and Steve Earle all on the ACL Live stage Sunday night. There are photographs so it must have happened. As far as dreams go, however, it was a pretty good one.

Occasion was the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association ushering Lovett, Keen, and the late, great Townes Van Zandt into its Hall of Fame. As awards shows go, it was paced quickly enough so that the music segments and not the presentations were the focus. Sure, there was too much Texas jingoism, but in the end it was a friendly mix of “God Bless Texas” and “Let’s get this show on road.”

Earle was there to pay tribute to Van Zandt. Having grown up just down the road near San Antonio and considering TVZ one of his most important mentors, Earle's perhaps the best man besides Guy Clark to do such honors seeing as he won a Grammy for his 2010 collection of TVZ covers simply titled Townes. And don’t forget that quote about Bob Dylan, a coffee table, and some cowboy boots.

Earle threw a couple of curves into the mix with a Lightnin’ Hopkins’ tune and a his own “Fort Worth Blues.” He acknowledged the latter, written in tribute after Van Zandt’s death in 1997, as a request from Townes’ son J.T., who was there to accept the award. When he finished, tears were noticeable throughout the sold-out house.

After a short break, Lovett and Keen took the stage for a song swap. Lovett's so comfortable in these situations that he should have his own TV talk show. The two spoke of their days together at Texas A&M, conscious that they’re old friends that rarely see each other.

Lovett did a couple of his songs that either mention Keen or were directly related to him. Keen pulled out “Village Inn” to prove how, at times, inspiration can be mundane and simple. Of course they smiled throughout “This Old Porch,” a tune they wrote together about their Aggie days.

To end the evening, Earle joined Lovett and Keen for a sober rendition of Van Zandt’s “Snowin’ on Raton,” fitting end to a stimulating night celebrating great songwriters and great songs.

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