Robert Earl Keen Sings With Natalie Maines on ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ (Exclusive Song)
Robert Earl Keen had an easy time getting Natalie Maines to sing with him on“Wayfaring Stranger,” from his new bluegrass album: her dad set it up. Speakeasy premieres the track today.
Keen and Lloyd Maines have known each other for more than 20 years. In fact, Keen first heard a teenaged Natalie Maines sing when she accompanied her father while he sat in with Keen’s band during a show in Lubbock, Tex. More recently, Lloyd Maines was producing Keen’s new album, “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions,” and offered to ask if his daughter—the Dixie Chicks singer and solo artist—was interested in a duet, Keen says.
“He called her up and she showed up, and it’s incredible,” Keen says. “It will make you sink to your knees. With people that are talented in any way, I’m even more taken aback when you’re there and it happens.”
Bluegrass was an unusual choice for Keen, a Texas country singer who has released 11 studio albums dating back to 1984. He acknowledges the incongruity with a colorful saying: “One of my jokes onstage is, ‘Texans know everything about everything, but they don’t know [expletive] about bluegrass.’”
Even so, Keen is a longtime fan of the style who thought the time was right to make his own bluegrass album. He wrote out a list of 100 potential songs, narrowed it down to the 28 or so he and his band recorded and winnowed that number to the 15 tracks on the album, which they recorded in six days.
“We just got in there and knocked these songs out,” says Keen, who calls it “the best recording experience I’ve ever had.”
“Happy Prisoner” also includes contributions from Lyle Lovett and Nickel Creek fiddle player Sara Watkins on tunes steeped in the American folk traditions (along with a version of Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning”). The album is due Feb. 10 on Dualtone. What do you think of “Wayfaring Stranger?” Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Listen to the song here.
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