Robert Earl Keen Gravitational Forces

Although previously confined to being connoisseurs of Texas singer/songwriters, Keen's appearance as part of boutique Americana label Lost Highway's original stable of artists (along with Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams) indicates he is poised to reach a wider audience. There are plenty of aspects of Gravitational Forces, from the crisp, uncomplicated production by Gurf Morlix to the bright, upbeat performances, that indicate this could happen. Yet, these factors are also the album's major drawbacks, leaving Keen's twangy whine as the only thing standing out among the rather anonymous backing tracks. If you don't mind that, the songs themselves are fabulous. Keen has a natural sense of his surroundings and is able to interpret them effectively on "Not A Drop Of Rain" and "My Home Ain't In The Hall Of Fame." There are also respective nods to influences Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt with "I Still Miss Someone" and "Snowin' On Raton." However, with nothing immediately grabbing about this album, it will take several spins to fully absorb the beauty of Keen's way with words. After the first listen, Gravitational Forces is simply pleasant, but fans of quality songwriting should get a lot of mileage out of it. (Lost Highway)