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|June 26-July 2, 2008
Robert Earl Keen brings traditional country music back
to the radio with a new twist
by Michael Deeds
Man up, Boulder
A new performance at The Dairy showcases the sensitive
side of the male species
by Dylan Otto Krider
Robert Earl Keen brings traditional country music back to the radio with a new twist
by Michael Deeds
(THIS CONCERT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY, AUG. 5. TICKETS PURCHASED TO THE JULY 2 SHOW WILL BE HONORED AT THE DOOR. REFUNDS ARE AVAILABLE BY CONTACTING THE BOULDER THEATER BOX OFFICE.)
Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen’s career has traversed the realms of folk, alternative-country and Texas music. A natural storyteller, Keen packs his albums with entertaining yarns and terrific imagery. It’s always a fun ride, but the eclectic musical production sometimes throws fans for a loop.
Question: You’ve long occupied that sort of unusual territory between country and folk. You ever feel like committing one way or the other? Making a career of that territory is sort of like telling your accountant, “I’m going to be a poet!”
Answer: That’s true. Then they’ll say, “Well, maybe you can do your own taxes.” At that point, it’s just a matter of marketing, really. What I do is write songs. I like steel guitars and fiddles and mandolins, so my stuff sounds country. But I tend to really write what I want to write. So I always kind of fall in between the cracks. There are people that are not unlike me that seem to be more mainstream just by the luck of the draw, I guess... Neil Young. Bob Dylan. Willie Nelson.
Q: When a singer-songwriter gets labeled as a storyteller — as you often are — are there a different set of expectations that he must live up to?
A: I don’t know. I write story things because that’s what I’m into, and I feel like I have a talent for it. And that’s really how I write. I prefer the complexity of fiction to just general spouting of emotion.
Q: Which is 99 percent of rock ’n’ roll music! If you weren’t a singer, would you be a writer? I know you attended journalism school long ago.
A: I might have been. My prose is not as good as my rhyming poetry. I feel like I’m in the right spot: writing songs and playing guitar. I have more interest in doing that than doing anything else.
Q: So it’s not just the storytelling, it’s the visceral pleasure you get from performing and creating.
A: Right. Two things happened in my life that make sense to me. One, I could always write from the time I was a really small child... rhyme and write little stories and all that kind of stuff. And the first time I ever stepped on stage, I just went, “Wow, this is where it all makes sense to me.” I’ve had my moments where I was nervous or felt a little bit uncomfortable, but not compared to some people. You read about certain really great recording artists and stuff that really freak out about the stage. They really do! They have serious phobias about it.
Q: Many of your fans — even a few who have admitted they weren’t overly fond of recent records — are singing the praises of What I Really Mean (Keen’s 2005 album). Why is that? What I’ve heard is that it reminds people of material several albums back.
A: I’ve read that. As far as an artist, it’s my job to keep pushing the envelope, expanding the horizons and entertaining myself and enjoying the process of making records and doing stuff with music. What I did a lot of times is I just kept pushing it and pushing it, and I could see people that were old-time fans that were, “Yeah, I really like that record.” And they’d mention one (that was) three records ago. And I’d go, “OK, that’s cool.” But that doesn’t sway me.
What happened here on [What I Really Mean], I think is it’s a little bit softer musically in that I didn’t just blaze out. For instance, the previous record, Farm Fresh Onions, a lot of people, I scared ’em off just by having a really distorted electric guitar-driven kind of record. Some of the people that liked all the acoustic stuff that I’d done went, “What’s he doing, selling out?” I wasn’t selling out. I was just having fun with electric guitars. But this one took a step back. Then there’s several of the sort of quirky, thought-provoking sort of songs on there that people really like. They sit there and go, “What does that mean? Who are you talking about here?” They love all that mystery stuff.
On the Bill
THIS CONCERT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY, AUG. 5. TICKETS PURCHASED TO THE JULY 2 SHOW WILL BE HONORED AT THE DOOR. REFUNDS ARE AVAILABLE BY CONTACTING THE BOULDER THEATER BOX OFFICE.
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Man up, Boulder
A new performance at The Dairy showcases the sensitive side of the male species
by Dylan Otto Krider
You’d think learning to get in touch with your body would be something every guy figured out around the age of 13. Some of us certainly didn’t need a class — though we are always open for tips on how to stop. In the years Kirsten Wilson has been teaching “Letting the Body Speak,” a 10-week crash course on writing and performing autobiographical monologues, she’s found that men are the most in need of some physical release. In Wilson’s experience, women are just naturally freer to self-analyze and confront their insecurities. “There just aren’t many avenues for men to talk honestly about the vulnerabilities of what it means to be human — loss, pain.”
Wilson noticed that when men were given the opportunity to express their fears, they started writing their most exciting stuff. So, she put together Mannologues, a collection of some of the more memorable monologues that came out of her class exercises both past and present. The reading is a sort of testosterone version of the Vagina Monologues, where members of the same sex talk about those subjects they are least comfortable discussing, and then read about them in public.
There are obvious differences. Unless you attended an all-girl high school, didn’t have brothers, and never walked by a construction site, you know men’s sex organs aren’t exactly what they have a problem talking about. No, what men have trouble talking about are those weird feelings you get in the chest or the pit of the stomach that the other sex calls emotions.
“For sure, women have space to not know, to cry, to be confused, to be insecure and weak. It’s OK, it goes with being female, whereas men are expected to soldier on in all contexts,” Wilson says. So when men open up, the body hair you’re more likely to hear about is the lack of it on their heads. “Losing your hair is a big experience of being a man in this culture.”
Focusing on a concrete body part like hair gives us a more direct and immediate way into the memories that tend to get intellectualized and shaped over time. It can also be the way the body reacts. Recalling the feeling of butterflies in our stomach or the chill of a stranger’s touch on our skin let’s us experience it again, unfiltered. You can tell yourself you aren’t attracted to someone, but you can’t stop the fact that you bump into tables any time you walk by.
The men who will be letting it all hang out are waiters, engineers, videographers and small business owners, discussing various aspects of their lives, like getting laid off — or, in the case of Chris Hatfield, the importance of touch. On Friday, June 27, Hatfield will be reading about the loneliness of bachelorhood:
“To spend an evening with my chosen family feeling that I am loved by all present is still somehow, sometimes, soured by knowing that I am allowed only second most important status at best. To be a thousand people’s number two doesn’t take the place of being someone’s number one.”
Michael Herrick’s monologue will discuss the death of his father: “My Father died of a headache, the kind you get when your Jeep rolls over on top of you.” On the day of the funeral, Herrick remembers a stranger telling him that at the age of three, he was now the man of the house. That piece comes from recollections of how his parents smelled and is called, “My Mother Smelt like Lilacs, and My Father the Earth”.
As one might expect of the actress who pulled together a night of all-male monologues, Wilson began the class in Santa Fe at the request of a visual arts teacher. “[The class] was originally meant to help artists find their voice,” she says. After a few years, she enrolled in Naropa University to do graduate work in contemporary theater with an emphasis in Buddhism.
Wilson says she can identify with the struggle men have to be less “impenetrable.” “I’m working harder at being vulnerable, having my feelings hurt, being angry, the full weight of all my feelings versus being in control or being such a solid rock,” she says. “Ultimately, I want the fullness of my life, and if I try to be impenetrable, then I don’t get to be fully present and know what it is really like to feel and touch.”
That takes courage. So a public talking cure like this might even put a little hair on your chest. Or palms. Either way, it’ll make up for the lack of it on your head.
On the Bill
The Mannalogues will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 27, at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826.
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