Spotlight on Citizen Keen

Where Rock, Country and Blues meet.
Citizen Keen, from left are Ricardo Ramirez, Sarah Keen, Paul Keen and Charley VanPortfliet. Photo by Michelle Cuppy.

Chances are, if you’ve lived in Grand Rapids for a while you’ve heard Citizen Keen play. Formerly known as The Four Lincolns, they’re one of Grand Rapids’ oldest bands, together since 1996. The band describes its sound as rock band Americana, intersecting where rock and country meet, with a distinct blues feel.

The band recently released a four-song EP with Mackinac Harvest at Michael Crittendon’s studio in Grand Rapids. Their music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, TikTok, prime, or basically anywhere people get their music.

Citizen Keen is mostly made up of family who have a lot of fun together, including lead singer, Sarah Keen, her husband and lead guitarist, Paul Keen, Paul’s stepbrother and bassist, Charley VanPortfliet (the ‘step twins’) and drummer Ricardo Ramirez.

Sarah Keen describes the band’s songwriting process as a collaborative effort, stemming from her lyrics, while husband, Paul, supplies the music. The recent release “Love and Kindness” stands out with its blend of acoustic guitar, soulful lead guitar solo, and compelling vocals. Keen explained how the song was inspired after attending a six-week meditation course at the GR center for mindfulness. After receiving instructions to “imagine herself as a child, and then to meditate on what that child would say to you,” this soulful song with a mellow vibe was born.

“The Search,” also found in their recently released four-song EP, blends a spoken word bridge with a darker electric guitar feel, and a plea to listeners to stand up and question violence. Thoughtful Lyrics and specific themes attached to their songs set Citizen Keen apart from other bands in the genre.

With singer Sarah Keen’s catchy, powerful lyrics and yearning vocals leading the way, a wall of sound supplied by warm, urgent acoustic guitar and emphatic electric guitar solos deepening the dimension of their music, Citizen Keen is a must-see home-grown Grand Rapids favorite.

For Rock fans, the recently released tracks mark a welcome return to West Michigan’s music scene.

Check them out August 12 at St. Julian’s outdoor tasting room in Rockford.



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