Robert Earl Keen – “The Rose Hotel”
1. A self described “failed little love story”, the characters of Robert Earl Keen’s latest single (and title track to his new record) “The Rose Hotel” just barely miss each other. If the previous sentence could adequately sum up the song, it wouldn’t be worth a listen. Luckily, Keen knows how to write around a story, telling just enough to insinuate what happened without laying it all out. The details of the song imply the intent of the characters: the “wishing well” across the street, and the “oldies on the radio” at the woman’s house conjure up the feeling of pursuing something nostalgic, whether it was actually good back then or not.
2. Rich Brotherton’s mandolin aids a near-party-rock beat that belies the fact that the song might have any kernel of intimacy. In truth, Keen’s casual musical approach shoes his shoulder-shrugging attitude about missed connections: they might bear incredible potential, but sometimes they just don’t work out. All three verses of the song show a man and a woman at similar levels of romantic pursuit, but always at differing times. At first, the woman waits for the man, breaking a nail on the latch of her door. He wanders outside, unaware, though by the time he enters in the third verse, the intricately described desk clerk lets him know that “she had just checked out”.
3. Keen says that he doesn’t remember writing this song, that it just spilled out. Then again, he also says that sometimes we can’t remember or write very much about close encounters, because “we just don’t know how close we were”.