The Front Porch Song

Lyle Lovett & Robert Earl Keen play to their mythology

The Front Porch Song
by Raoul Hernandez

By now it’s almost mythological that Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen met as students at Texas A&M in the Seventies. Friends ever since, their appearances together remain rare. That lent last night’s over-two-hour set at the Paramount Theater the feeling of an event. They appear there again tonight and around Texas through Sunday.

After their Aggie days, the two singer-songwriters traveled different paths to becoming masters of their craft. Tuesday’s marathon show highlighted their similarities, amplified their differences, and with delightfully droll banter, exposed their decades long camaraderie.

Entering the stage grinning broadly, Lovett showed up with his now standard tailored dark suit and two-tone cowboy boots – Keen with khakis and slip-ons. Lovett took the lead, asking questions as if he had his own talk show. Keen countered laughingly with “it’s our show” before plowing into “Mr. Wolf and Mamabear.”

“So you’ve read Animal Farm,” cracked Lovett afterwards.

So it went, Lovett’s stark reading of “North Dakota” coming off typically chilling. Keen drawled the twisted “The Great Hank” with aplomb. They had self-deprecating fun with their experiences as songwriters and country music artists in Nashville, but also pulled out some of their better known tunes like “If I Had A Boat” and “I’m Coming Home.”

Two extraordinary storytellers with distinctive styles and the ability to always keep the listener engaged, they made it all look easy, natural. Discussing song interpretation Lovett quipped, “It’s always interesting when your song is in the hand of someone else’s mind.”

Part of the pair’s mythology comes from the set-ending “The Front Porch Song,” about the house in Aggieland where they once gathered to play. Written by Keen and included on both of their debut LPs, it was performed together as more of a meditation on days gone by than sing-a-long at a beer fueled college party, a fitting round up of the treasures contained in the night’s performance.

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Lyle Lovett & Robert Earl Keen, Texas A&M, Animal Farm, Paramount Theatre

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