Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely and Terry Allen

City Winery / Nashville, TN

Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, City Winery, City Winery Nashville
Clockwise from left: Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Robert Earl Keen

The admonition to converse only in whispers during the show was not lost on the near capacity audience who filled Nashville’s City Winery for Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen and Terry Allen. The music of these three master singer/songwriters commands absolute attention, and folks in the crowd were drawn to every word of the songs these Texas artists performed.

The show was in an in-the-round format, allowing the trio to exchange comments and sing and/or play along with their fellow artists as the show progressed. The three performed mostly familiar songs throughout the evening, with Keen opening the show with “Shades of Gray.” Complimenting his fellow singers, Keen said, “It is a privilege to open for Terry and Joe. When I wonder about something, I don’t think, ‘what would Jesus do,’ but, ‘what would these guys do?’”

Allen followed with “The Wolfman of Del Rio” and Ely came back with “All That You Need.” The three men draw heavily from their Texan backgrounds, weaving the state’s landscapes and wisdom in and out of their tunes. Allen relayed a story about his parents loving a house in Amarillo so much, when they moved to Lubbock they had an identical home built. When his mother moved back to Amarillo, she (not so patiently) waited until the woman in the original home died so she could buy it and move back in—all of which served as inspiration for “Hold On To The House.”

The three singers are so familiar with each other and each other’s music that the set was comfortable, almost as if the audience was in their living room, not a club near downtown Nashville. After winding through tunes like Ely’s “Because of the Wind,” Allen’s “Peggy Legg” and Keen’s “Whenever Kindness Fails,” the trio left the stage to wild applause and calls for their return. And return they did, playing as an encore a song Keen said they all grew up with, the Flatt & Scruggs classic, “Give Me Flowers (While I’m Living).”

– Vernell Hackett

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