By Eric Woods Special to the Caller-Times

While the house located at 302 Church St. seemed like just about every other residence in College Station, much more was going on there than the neighbors knew about.

This particular house was being rented by budding songwriter Robert Earl Keen and his roommate, longtime friend and fiddle player Bryan Duckworth. And just down the road from Keen and Duckworth lived friend and neighbor, Lyle Lovett.

Keen and Lovett will be performing at 8 p.m. Thursday at the American Bank Center.

“It was really a wonderful atmosphere,” Lovett said about his experiences on Church Street with Keen. “A lot of people hung out at Robert’s house and they kept their instruments there. There was always someone to play a song with.”

One of the things about Keen that sticks out in Lovett’s mind during his time on Church Street is the kind of host Keen was and how gracious he was to those who visited him.

“Robert was always very kind to everybody that came by his place, and made everybody feel at home,” Lovett said. “People would go to his house and hang out there whether he was there or not, and they left it open all of the time. He was such a gracious host that I remember if he had a test or something important to do for school, he would often times check into a motel so he wouldn’t have to run anyone off. He was very nice to everyone.”

Many stories and songs were shared and written on that weathered front porch in the 1970s, and a few of those stories have also been shared by Keen.

When asked about the time spent there and the jam sessions, Keen, who is a fan of the romantic poets, compared the relationships of those poets to his time writing and playing on the front porch with several musicians including Lovett. The time on that porch and those sessions was the inspiration for Keen and Lovett’s cowritten song, “The Front Porch Song.”

“I thought it was fascinating that they were so well connected and so talented,” Keen said referring to his favorite poets. “What was going on back then was interesting to me and how Lyle and I were hanging out in our own small way reflecting that exact same thing. We’ve gone on to have some sort of celebrity and fame, and as far as doing what we did, we were no more than pimply face guys who talked about girls and school and our big dreams and what we were going to do when we got out of school and about music.”

Robert Earl Keen will take the stage Thursday night along with Lyle Lovett at the American Bank Center Selena Auditorium. Those days have long since passed, as have the conversations about girls, dreams and the future. But the spirit of what happened on that front porch as well as the song swaps are being recreated by both Lovett and Keen during a string of acoustic performances throughout Texas.

Much like the front porch song swaps, the acoustic performances by Keen and Lovett are basic. And even if the format is simple, it is still entertaining.

“Fortunately Lyle and I are both entertainers, so we don’t just sit there and waste people’s time,” Keen said. “We talk about stuff that’s fun and funny and interesting, and then play a song. We play the song and then talk about it. It’s not scripted and it works because we were really great friends back then and we remained friends all of these years.”

What’s also interesting about the concerts is that fans of both songwriters get to eavesdrop as the two catch up and share events in their lives and share stories of what has been happening since the last time Lovett and Keen have spent time together.

“Robert and I have been friends since 1976, and we don’t get to see each other that often because of his schedule and my schedule,” Lovett said. “We got to talking, and so we thought it would be a fun way to spend a little time together. A show like this does afford each of us the ability to ask each other questions, and to make requests of each other as well. It’s kind of a conversation literally and musically.”

If You Go: What: Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: American Bank Center Selena Auditorium, 1901 North Shoreline Blvd.
Cost: Tickets start at $35 (plus fees)
Information: 826-4754, 1-800-745-3000 or visit americanbankcenter.com

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