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story.lead_photo.caption Robert Earl Keen doesn’t promise snow for Christmas, but he does promise fun. Currently in its sixth year, the “REK Fam-OLee Back to the Country Jamboree” tour, based on his classic song “Merry Christmas From the Family,” comes Dec. 13 to the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

... Carve the turkey,

Turn the ball game on,


Robert Earl Keen:

‘Merry Christmas From the Family’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Dec. 13

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Faytteville

COST — $25 & up

INFO — 443-5600,

Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone.

Send somebody to the Quickpak Store.

We need some ice and an extension cord ...

These lines from "Merry Christmas From the Family," a classic by singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen, describe a pretty typical family Christmas scene. That's where Keen's own family holidays started, but they got lost somewhere along the way.

Keen grew up in Houston, which isn't known for its white Christmases. The temperature was most likely 85 degrees with 95 percent humidity, he says. "Every Christmas song I had ever heard didn't have a lot to do with growing up in Houston," Keen says. "I didn't even know what a chestnut looked like until I was 30 years old and saw it in a picture book."

But the singer describes his family gatherings as very similar to those of the song -- dysfunctional and "practically pornographic," he says.

Keen brings his unique Christmas wishes to fans in Northwest Arkansas on Dec. 13 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville with the "REK Fam-O-Lee Back to the Country Jamboree." Special guests will be the Quebe Sisters, a Texan trio of fiddlers.

"We're called the Jimmy Buffets of December. We've done this for six years," Keen says of his Christmas tour, which is based on the Christmas song. "It's primarily the song people want to hear."

In fact, Keen says he won't play his Christmas song during any season when linen attire is acceptible. "So it saves it and makes it fresh for the holiday season," he says. "We start playing it around Labor Day, and we play it on through the holidays."

Keen describes the show as "full-grown theater" in a "variety show" sort of way. "We've ramped up the set with the world's largest box of Tampons and a can of fake snow," illustrating lines in the song, he says.

And to keep the tour fun for the entertainers, each year, the band members choose a character and don costumes based on a theme for the year. This year's theme is "like a back-to-the-country jamboree." Band members will portray Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Dwight Yoakam and perform in character some of those artists' songs, Keen says.

"Merry Christmas From the Family" first appeared on "Gringo Honeymoon," Keen's 1994 album, with a live version recorded for "No. 2 Live Dinner" in 1996.

Marking the 20th anniversary of "Live Dinner," Keen recorded a reunion album last year, "REK Live Dinner Reunion." And it really is an album. The vinyl double-LP was recorded at Texas' legendary Floore's Country Store in Helotes, Texas, with performances by Cody Canada, Bruce Robison, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely and more.

"I just asked all of my friends to come out," Keen says.

He says the record company planned the project to bolster the Christmas show.

Although a white Christmas is no promise, no doubt Keen's Christmas show also will include a performance of "Happy Holidays Y'all," the sequel to "Family," which describes the scene after that dysfunctional family Christmas.

... Last night, we all sang Jingle Bells and opened up our hearts

This morning, our house looks like hell or possibly Walmart

Someone clean the gravy boat and dress the Barbie doll

Merry Christmas everyone, happy holidays you all.

NAN What's Up on 12/10/2017

Print Headline: Dysfunctional Family Fun

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