Robert Earl Keen performs on stage during concert tour
Robert Earl Keen performs on stage during concert tour

The Rose Hotel is the bittersweet story of a romance that almost was.

Robert Earl Keen made his name with a series of albums full of memorable stories.  His most-covered song might be "The Road Goes On Forever," about two other star-crossed lovers on a crime spree.

On The Rose Hotel, he continues in that tradition, coming up with an album full of songs that is a mix of the funny, clever, and heart-wrenching original stories fans come to expect from the Texas native.  There are also two covers on the CD.  One is Townes Van Zandt's "Flyin' Shoes."  The other is a duet with Greg Brown on Brown's "Laughing River," the story of a minor league baseball player and life after he leaves the game.

Longtime fans might detect a slightly different sound to this CD.  Part of that can be attributed to the fact that Robert Earl Keen is working with a new producer.  Fellow Texan Lloyd Maines is in charge of Robert's first studio album in four years.  It was recorded with Keen's road band of more than a decade and a few other friends in a studio outside of Austin, Texas.

Another highlight on The Rose Hotel is Robert Earl Keen's tribute to The Band's Levon Helm, "The Man Behind The Drums."

Since this is a Robert Earl Keen CD, not all the songs on The Rose Hotel are serious.  "Something I Do" is a good example of the more playful side of the songwriter.  It's an ode to doing nothing at all, perhaps a new anthem for underachievers everywhere.