Robert Earl Keen always delivers his quota of rambling songs. The beautifully crafted Gravitational Forces, however, turns around stories of guys whose ropes have run out. On his first album in more than three years, the s... more »inger-songwriter often backs down from the bravado of past blurts like "Whenever Kindness Fails." Not that it's absent in the breakneck remake of his signature "The Road Goes On Forever" or even the cover of Joe Dolce's homebound "Hall of Fame." Yet he dwells more on the troubled side of his drifting characters' lives: the wrong-side-of-the-law losers of "Wild Wind," the homeless loner of "Not a Drop of Rain." Keen tweaks pavement-bound verities even further on the Dylanesque "Goin' Nowhere Blues" and the deadpan spoken-word title track, which takes out his frustration with a half-day sound check on the club's puzzling decor. If this debut for the Lost Highway label raises Keen's profile even further, the attention will be well deserved. --Rickey Wright« less
Robert Earl Keen always delivers his quota of rambling songs. The beautifully crafted Gravitational Forces, however, turns around stories of guys whose ropes have run out. On his first album in more than three years, the singer-songwriter often backs down from the bravado of past blurts like "Whenever Kindness Fails." Not that it's absent in the breakneck remake of his signature "The Road Goes On Forever" or even the cover of Joe Dolce's homebound "Hall of Fame." Yet he dwells more on the troubled side of his drifting characters' lives: the wrong-side-of-the-law losers of "Wild Wind," the homeless loner of "Not a Drop of Rain." Keen tweaks pavement-bound verities even further on the Dylanesque "Goin' Nowhere Blues" and the deadpan spoken-word title track, which takes out his frustration with a half-day sound check on the club's puzzling decor. If this debut for the Lost Highway label raises Keen's profile even further, the attention will be well deserved. --Rickey Wright
"Lost Highway, the new MCA-Universal imprint championing alt.country music, better get its act together. Or, it will get a reputation of being the label where alt.country acts go to die. Lucinda Williams's debut for the label was a disappointment, and I hear Ryan Adams's new one isn't much better. Like those two CDs, GRAVITATIONAL FORCES does not represent Mr. Keen's finest moments on disk. Despite the fact that it's been more than 3 years since his last CD, Robert Earl manages to come up with only five new songs here. (I'm not counting the title track, which has neither lyrics or a discernable turn, as a song.) The lack of fresh originals ain't a good sign for a singer-songwriter who's more the latter than the former. What's good here: Actually, the cover of "Hall of Fame" is very nice -- it sounds like a REK song. "Hello New Orleans" is a good addition the Keen catalog, and Townes Van Zandt's "Snowing on Raton" is just flat one of the best songs ever written. What's not so good: The cover of "I Still Miss Someone" is bad, bad, bad. What is Keen doing with his voice, why does he sound so stiff? And, couldn't he find some sheet music for this so he could at least get the lyrics right? "Gravitational Forces" is an unfunny monologue describing boredom at a sound check. Dude, when it takes you three years to come up with a "song" about how sound checks take too long, it's time to buy either a book or a clue. What's mysterious: Why include yet another version of "The Road Goes on Forever"? This is the third time Keen has committed this song to disk. It's a great song, mind you, but the other versions are still available. And, the arrangement here is a carbon copy from 1996's Number 2 Live Dinner.We're treading on dangerous ground here. Robert Earl Keen can make a nice living playing the fratboy/ex-Texas circuit and never write another decent song again. I'm afraid with GRAVITATIONAL FORCES, we're seeing hints that this just might be what he's fixing to do."
Keen in his sleep is still better than most.
Marty Clark | Kuna, Idaho | 09/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Earl Keen's Gravitational Forces is a very good CD, but it is a bit uneven, sounding as if the idea for the album was perhaps conceived during brief pauses between relentless nights on the road the REK band is famous for. Gravitational Forces shows the Earth is slightly off axis when Robert puts his spin on it. Overall, the down sides of this album are; 1)Probably not the best effort REK could have given us. 2) The drums are mixed too LOUD. 3) No Duckworth. 4) Could have used a live recording of any one of the thousand times the band has performed The Road Goes On Forever, and it would have sounded better than the remake on this album. The upsides are: 1)Unique and crafty songwriting 2)Good choices for cover songs, as always. 3) Rich Brotherton provides super guitar licks, as always. 4)The song "Wild Wind" alone makes this CD worth buying. 5) Hey it's Robert Earl..... And as a side note, you ain't lived until you've seen a live Robert Earl Keen show."
Destined to be a classic!
bloodhoundlover | 09/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A singular Artist who both defines and defies country music, Robert Earl Keen is his truth telling and introspective self on his latest CD, Gravitational Forces. Keen's legendary wit and crackerjack songwriting, along with his superb taste in cover tunes, shine on this album.
The opening grooves of "Hall of Fame" are a hint of what's to come in this 12 song CD, with Keen answering the question (before it's asked), "What do you think of the state of crappy, prefabricated country music?" In this obscure cover, REK seems to make his declaration (not his concession) that real music is what he's about and to heck with the pop princes and princesses on Top-40 country radio today. That sentiment will be shared happily by the legions of fans that have either grown up listening to Keen, or by those recent converts driven away from Top-40 country radio by sugarcoated playlists and insipid DJ's.
Introspective originals ("Hello New Orleans" and "Goin' Nowhere Blues") demonstrate Keen's songwriting prowess and his God-given ability to turn a phrase as deftly as forefathers Guy Clark, TownesVan Zandt, and yes, even Bob Dylan. His gift of writing about the down-and-outers and losers in life, while making them momentary heroes is astonishing. This is a trait that Keen has displayed before, and one that he delivers once again. For instance, "Wild Wind" is the CD's defining moment and will no doubt be heard blaring from car stereos and screamed as a request by live audiences for years to come. With a bouncy rhthym section and a to-die-for hook (resplendant with perfect harmony vocals and flawless harmonica accompaniament), the song tells the story of a group of down and outers in (presumably) Texas whose lives are not guided by ambition, but by their own predestined fates and their ideas that change like the wind. The song is classic REK and will stand as one of his best, both live and on this CD.
Keen is a rare gift to country music, and not because he's aping it up in videos (South 65, etc, etc, etc, ad nausea) or because he's the self-proclaimed savior of country music (Charlie Robison). Keen's gift is his ability to freeze a moment or an emotion from life, put it to music, and show us the not-so-pretty people and their situations that are strangely familiar to us, somehow making them beautiful and sympathetic. He has done that for nearly 20 years, and continues his steady ascension to the country music lovers' Hall of Fame with this near-perfect CD."
Good, but not so good
bloodhoundlover | 10/01/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When we love an artist we all hope that each new album will be as good as their debut, or at least, better than their last. Unfortunately, sometimes they just aren't. Gravitational Forces is a good album. It is much better than most country music coming out of Nashville these days. It is not Robert Earl's best. I knew it wouldn't be when I saw it had yet another version of his signature song, The Road Goes on Forever. Standouts: Wild Wind will become a Keen standard.This album does not exemplify his best writing, but he always seems to have a knack for finding great songs and covering them so well you'd think he wrote them, i.e., Terry Allen's Amarillo Highway, James McMurtry's Levelland, and on this album, Townes Van Zandt's Snowin' on Raton (the one reason to by this album).Not the best, but enjoyable. Hey, support the guy, he'll do better next time."
bloodhoundlover | colleyville, tx USA | 10/20/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"REK - you've spoiled us. You put out those first 5-6 albums where every song is killer. Just put it on random and listen all day. Now with these last two you give 3-4 cuts that are the best yet, by far (Feelin' Good Again, Hall of Fame, Wild Wind, Not A Drop, Down That Dusty Road) but start pluggin' in the filler for the other cuts. I guess that's to be expected - can't be absolutely brilliant each and every cut. Problem is - you used to be. I'll still buy everything you ever do and see you live every place you go ('ceptin Billy Bob's fight club) but the total package has gone downhill. And I'm not one of those Road Goes On, Merry Christmas, Copenhagen, Pissin' In The Wind guys, either. By the way, Roger Craeger is doin' a hell of an imitation of you on his latest CD. Everclear and Fun All Wrong shoulda been yours."