"Alone at Last" (Ron Keel Entertainment / A&R Entertainment; 2006)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

You’re going to see a lot of acoustic albums from heavy metal heroes of the past coming out of the pipeline in the wake of the success of VH-1’s "Metal Mania Stripped" franchise and frankly, you can either take them or leave them for what they’re worth. The concept works because there’s probably not a single one of you reading this that didn’t sing metal songs around a campfire or in your basement in the midnight hour with the assistance of some liquid courage. I tell the story frequently about camping with friends of mine a few years back and how we extolled revenge on a neighboring campsite of teens that kept us up until 3:30 in the morning playing the same four Eminem songs repeatedly. The following night we light the bonfire, cracked out the beer and blared Dee Snider’s "House of Hair," caterwauling our fool heads off in a sloshed form of old school getback. Ironically enough, Keel’s signature classic “Somebody’s Waiting” happened to be on Dee’s playlist that night.

If you’ve kept up with Ron Keel following the disbanding of his showcase eighties band, he has had quite a journey. Instead of fading into obscurity on some dusty highway for has-been rockers, Keel tightened his boots and tramped from seedy L.A. back to where it all started in Nashville, making a couple of last-ditch stabs at rock along the way, none the least of which is his coupling with four femme fatales in Fair Game. Finding new life in the world of country music as Ronnie Lee Keel (his true legal name, for the record), the former metal frontman rejuvenated himself playing apposite music that explored his Georgian roots and, while the move ostracized him from his heavy metal enclave of fans, the end result was probably something of a necessity for the man’s career, because his soul-searching culminates on a brand new one-man-jam retrospective of Ron Keel’s musical career through hard rock, country and roadhouse blues on the appropriately titled "Alone at Last."

You’re probably going to be hard-pressed to find a project like this with more honesty and integrity. If the naysayer in you scoffs at the fact that Ron Keel is covering his back catalog on "Alone at Last," get over it. If you can’t see the value in a bare-knuckled take on “Private Lies” and “Die Fighting” or a dreamy solo encapsulation of “Dreams Are Not Enough,” you’re missing the soul of the songs that unravel when shed the distortion. Moreover, the shift from Keel’s vocals from rocker to country crooner on “Last Call,” “Serenade” and the wonderfully swampy “Haunted Saloon” are worth checking out. What Garth Brooks failed miserably at with his Chris Gaines offshoot, Ron Keel pulls off easily. Some guys are obviously posers and some are obviously not …

With lyrical bloodletting on songs like “The Time of My Life,” “You Can Have What’s Left of Me” and “Calm Before the Storm,” if you’re not much of a country fan, you’re nonetheless going to find yourself paying attention because Ron Keel possesses the ability to write tunes that imprint themselves on your brain. This rock'n'roll outlaw is an underappreciated and misunderstood songwriter who still has plenty of vocal chops as he does talent in his fingers that pluck guitar and strike piano keys that would send Stryper home in balladry defeat, much less put his listeners on that dusty highway with him, recounting his wares on “Hillbilly Heavy Metal Rock ‘n Roll Soul.” Irresistible, to say the least.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2006  by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03 Apr 2022 15:56:16 -0400 .