I’ve followed the career of Ron Keel since I dropped some of my paper route money on the Cedar Mall Drug counter in exchange for my cassette copy of The Right To Rock. I was a horrible paper boy. I may have been chronically late but I always packed my Walkman and The Right To Rock was an album that helped me ignore the angry customers shaking their fists as I rolled in with their morning paper just before noon. I first met the man in Nashville last summer. And even 30 plus years later, he was pretty much how I imaged he would be back when I was inexplicably never fired from my paper route. Both literally and figuratively larger than life figure. One thing is certain, no one has ever accused Ron of being an introvert. Even talking with him, you get the sense he feels compelled to entertain you.
Well the Metal Cowboy is back. Rolling straight out of the Rock N Roll capitol of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Ron Keel Band is releasing their debut record, Fight Like A Band, on the EMP Label Group on March 1st. If you feel like making a trek to Iowa, I’m guessing you can pick it up a week early at the Release Party on February 23rd at the Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood, Iowa.
Often times, artists feel compelled to recreate past glory and when they do, almost always fall well short of that goal. Sure, I want to hear “The Right To Rock” when I see Ron Keel live, but I don’t want to hear him try to write that song over and over for the next 30 years. Regardless of the artist, I want to hear them grow as much as I want to grow with them. Fight Like A Band delivers on that level. It’s unmistakably a Ron Keel record, but it also light years from the early days of Keel. If The Right To Rock is a young man looking to pick a bar fight, Fight Like A Band is Sam Elliot’s character in Roadhouse. He can still kick your ass if he has to.
Fight Like A Band is a record with a lot of color and shape. Tales of coming together to beat the odds and beat cancer (“Fight Like A Band“). Some story songs (“Rock N Roll Guitar”, “Hearts Gone Wild“). “Good Songs, Bad Times” contains a lyric so brilliant and understated it’s hard to believe I haven’t heard it before with the line “Let the bad times rock!”. The first single “Girls Like Me” is catchy as hell. And the album closer is a touching yet fun track called “Hey Man” where we hear Ron sing about the struggle to maintain friendships in his line of work. Also included is a medley of some classic Keel tracks re-recorded with the Ron Keel Band. He wasn’t sure he’d have a full album of music (he was wrong) so he recorded this medley because on the original recordings, in his own words, the singer sucks. Well I’m not sure about that but I am sure my favorite track is the southern rocker “Long Way Down”.
Ron Keel and his band knock it out of the park with Fight Like A Band. Ron has assembled an impressive core of musicians and made a record that in my humble (who am I fooling) opinion is more than just a good record. It is at the very least, in the conversation of the best work of Ron Keel’s career. Standout Tracks would be “Fight Like A Band”, “Long Way Down”, “Good Songs Bad Times”, “Hey Man” & “Girls Like Me”. Fight Like A Band drops March 1st.