Robert Earl Keen Takes Final Bow in Texas With Help From Eric Church

by Blake Ells

Robert Earl Keen spent the year saying farewell. The road does not go on forever, it seems, as the 66-year-old is stepping away from touring. The legendary troubadour was covered by his friend Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Joe Ely, The Highwaymen and Nanci Griffith throughout his career. A country music titan opened the set for Robert Earl Keen at Floore’s Country Story in Helotes, Tex. Eric Church looked up to Robert Earl Keen, and he couldn’t miss the opportunity to show his appreciation.

“I grew up in North Carolina,” the Chief said from the stage, according to Rolling Stone. “And when I was in college, one of the first records that was ever given to me was by one of the musician friends that I looked up to. He passed me the No. 2 Live Dinner record. And he said, ‘Young blood! Listen to me. This is what you need to learn right here.’ And, well, [expletive]. I learned it all. And I can play it all.”

The tour was challenging. He was plagued by back problems. He had an allergic reaction to medication. A band member was injured. The bus caught on fire in New Orleans.

“But, by God, we made it here tonight,” he said.

Another Texas legend, James McMurtry, was also on the bill. Robert Earl Keen had a 29-song set, including a six song encore. Someone in the crowd asked him not to retire. He closed the main set with “The Road Goes on Forever.” And he wrapped the encore with “I’m Coming Home.”

“Have you ever heard that all good things must end?” he fired back.

The year-long tour hit most of the United States. He visited Nashville earlier this summer. Robert Earl Keen headlined the Ryman Auditorium.

Eric Church Lends a Hand to Robert Earl Keen

It’s funny how it worked out for Eric Church. He canceled a concert in San Antonio in April because he wanted to see his North Carolina Tar Heels play rival Duke in the Final Four. He conceded that it was selfish, and promised that he’d make it up.

That “make up” came in the form of two free shows at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Tex. over Labor Day weekend. That timing allowed Church to swing through Helotes and pay respects to one of his biggest influences. That’s the end of the road for Eric Church this year. He does have one impressive festival date remaining on the calendar. He’ll be at Moon Crush Harvest Moon in Miramar Beach, Fla. on October 28 & 29. The Chief headlines two shows at the destination festival. Turnpike Troubadours headline a third night. Learn more about the festival and get ticket information at his website.