Real Bluegrass for Robert Earl Keen!

ROBERT EARL KEENRolling Stone Magazine and several other online publications, are reporting a 2015 All-Bluegrass Album for Americana Artist, Robert Earl Keen.

The Texas Singer/Songwriter won't be singing his own masterful story-telling songs either but will be covering some of his traditional favorites from the genre, like Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers.

"It’s a bluegrass record — traditional bluegrass. I didn’t write any of the songs, it’s Flatt and Scruggs, some “traditional, arranged-by,” you know, that kind of thing. The Stanley Brothers, [John] Hartford — a life-long love of bluegrass. I thought, you know, if I don’t do this now, I’m never gonna do it,"  Keen told THE NASHVILLE SCENE in an interview published online last week.

Joining Keen on Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions will be his band, who has played with him for two decades, and a slew of guest musicians: banjo player Danny Barnes, mandolin player Kym Warner, fiddler Sara Watkins and singers Natalie Maines, Peter Rowan and Lyle Lovett.

While Keen is mostly known for his work in the Americana genre, he's dabbled in bluegrass on occasion.  Some might say he's skirted around the edges a bit.   His song “The Bluegrass Widow” from Keen’s 1998 The Live Album lists off traditional bluegrass tunes as it tells its story.

Keen attended Texas A&M University in College Station, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1980 and began writing songs and playing bluegrass and folk music with friends according to his published biography.

Almost a year ago, Keen told the AUSTIN CHRONICLE in an interview that he'd been wanting to do some real bluegrass... "I’ve always had this love for bluegrass. It’s always been this teetering country artist doing some bluegrass. I wanted to do it for a long time and I thought I’d better do it now,"  Keen said.  "I could sit down and make up some fake bluegrass songs, but I just thought it would sound really contrived.  Admittedly, I’m not a quote/unquote bluegrass singer, so I want things to sound good. I don’t want things to sound like I’m straining to sound like Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers. I want the songs to sound good."

Keen told the CHRONICLE that the inspiration for the album came out of getting a little bored with the status quo.

For “Happy Prisoner,” Keen put together nearly 30 songs “that I’ve been listening to since I was a kid.  We did ‘Hot Corn, Cold Corn,’ a Flatt and Scruggs song … It’s pretty foot-stompin’ and hollerin’ kind of stuff. We did ‘Poor Ellen Smith’ and we made it extremely soulful … There was some movement around, you know, sometimes. Like The Stanley Brothers’ ‘The White Dove,’ we did that just solid straight. I’m not out to re-invent the format. I love to do that, but at the same time, the risk is you just don’t do the song justice.

Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions is scheduled to come out in February 2015 through Dualtone Records.

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