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Keen Thinking

Robert Earl Keen won't dumb down his music for country consumption.

For this reason, true Keen aficionados tend to find symbolic significance in all of his words, whether their creator put it there intentionally or not. "That happens all the time," Keen says. "My favorite was with this guy named Munroe who does these unbelievable walks--like, last year, he walked from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Chile. And when he was on his way to Chile, he was on this mountain in Ecuador with his girlfriend and they took some peyote and listened to this song of mine, 'Gringo Honeymoon.' He said while he was sitting there, he totally understood the entire universal meaning of it. And when he was telling me about it, it kind of scared me. He's a wonderful guy, talkative and entertaining, but I had to say to him, 'Well, Munroe, I wasn't on peyote when I wrote that song. I think I drank a few beers that day, but that was it.'"

Although Munroe thinks he knows what "Gringo Honeymoon" is about, Keen's not so sure; the rhymes came to him as they've been doing since his childhood, and all he did was jot them down. "Like [the late singer-songwriter] Townes Van Zandt used to say, 'Sometimes they just fall out of the sky,'" Keen points out. "And it's my job to catch them."

Robert Earl Keen. 10 p.m. Friday, July 24, Grizzly Rose, 5450 North Valley Highway, $5, 830-

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