Texas is a state, yes. But it's in its own way a vast universe unto itself, encompassing numerous ecosystems from swamps, big cities and the Piney Woods to mountains, the Gulf Coast and deserts — and each is populated by characters as distinctive and colorful as the land itself. Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen, a Houston native who lives with his family on a ranch near Kerrville in the Texas hill country, not only knows this, but he thrives on it.

"You know, things have worked out pretty well. I did used to bemoan my fate and think maybe I'd been unlucky, but in the end I've been very fortunate. I've had a long, gradual, sustained career. In one way, it's interesting to be on the outside and watch other's careers blow up. All of a sudden, an artist gets really big, almost overnight. And a lot of times it doesn't last."

"Our core band has been together going back over 20 years. I like to think we're as cool and unique as you could ask for. (Laughs.) It's a lot of fun, and we know exactly where we're going and what we're doing, even though we never play the same show twice.  After the (2016) bluegrass album, I added fiddler Brian Beken and mandolinist Kym Warner. They're half my age and just fantastic players."

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