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Over the course of his third solo album, Keith constantly shifts backward and forward in time from a troubled past to a happy present and glorious future.
Tunes like the album-opening No. 1 "Days Go By," its closing sequel "These Are the Days" and "God's Been Good to Me" embrace the current moment with a sense of urgency that only comes with regret for having wasting too much time already. Meanwhile, "Tonight I Wanna Cry" and "Nobody Drinks Alone" flash back to an alcohol-addled past that Keith has put behind him, but remembers clearly. "Better Life" and "Live to Love Another Day" anticipate times to come with an open heart.
The mood changes can be jarring, as when the jubilant "I Could Fly" slams into the bleak "Tonight I Wanna Cry." But they also keep Be Here jumping with the same dynamics that marked Keith's artistic breakthrough, 2002's Golden Road. The only disappointment here, actually, is that the new album is too reminiscent of its predecessor - Golden Road was a leap forward from Keith's self-titled debut, while Be Here sometimes feels like Golden Road, Part II.
But it's hard to worry about that during the album's finest moments - like the riveting musical drama of "She's Gotta Be" or the exquisite "Making Memories of Us." Throughout, this underappreciated guitar hero lays down some of his finest fretwork - check out the way his solo at the end of "Nobody Drinks Alone" grows from understated lyricism to scorching intensity.
The fact that Keith's guitar skills get overshadowed by his top-shelf singing and songwriting only demonstrates the depth of his talent and potential. May the golden road go on forever.