Robert Earl Keen is one of 30 acts scheduled to play at the 23rd annual MusicFest, which starts Monday and runs through Jan. 12.

Courtesy photo

Robert Earl Keen is one of 30 acts scheduled to play at the 23rd annual MusicFest, which starts Monday and runs through Jan. 12.

MusicFest returns to town

A look at who's playing the 23rd annual Texas-produced festival

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Robert Earl Keen

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Courtesy photo

The Gougers

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Cross Canadian Ragweed

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Reckless Kelly

If you don't already have a full-festival pass for the 23rd annual MusicFest at Steamboat, it's not too likely you'll be getting one.

Because MusicFest is sold as a group ski vacation, its 30-plus bands and dozens of performances are not individually ticketed. The event sells out early almost every year, and final balances for the $200-plus festival packages were due months ago. It's produced by an Austin-based company, Dickson Productions.

This year's festival goes for two days longer than the usual six-day trip, with a set from Pure Prairie League and Cory Morrow on Jan. 10, and a concert by Reckless Kelly and The Gougers on Jan. 11.

Along with full-scale concerts at the Steamboat Music Tent, the festival hosts smaller shows in Gondola Square at Bear River Bar & Grill and the MusicFest General Store Tent, as well as at the top of the gondola and in the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel ballroom.

If you do have tickets for the festival - or if you're just curious about the sounds emitted from the massive Steamboat Music Tent in the Knoll Parking Lot - here's a rundown of five acts out of the busloads of Texas country musicians who will play Steamboat Springs from Monday through Jan. 12:

Robert Earl Keen

At last year's MusicFest, much of the festival's roster recorded a live tribute to Robert Earl Keen, who has been a staple on the Texas alternative country scene since the early 1980s. The album, "Undone: A MusicFest Tribute to Robert Earl Keen," comes out on the Dickson Productions record label Feb. 3.

Career highlights: "No Kinda Dancer," Keen's debut album, came out in 1984. Since then, he has released a dozen live and studio discs, and has spent time on a number of hefty labels, including Sugar Hill, Lost Highway and Arista.

When he's playing: Jan. 6

Cross Canadian Ragweed

Returning to Steamboat Springs after an August appearance in the Free Summer Concert Series, Cross Canadian Ragweed promises to stay true to its hard-partying, red-dirt country roots.

Career highlights: The band has a talent for gathering die-hard fans with its raucous live performances. Cross Canadian has put out nine live and studio albums since its debut in 2001 and has been signed to the Universal South label since 2004.

When the band is playing: Check the MusicFest schedule for exact dates and times.

The Gougers

With lyrics that often are closer to indie rock than they are to traditional country songwriting, Austin-based folk group The Gougers has made a hefty impact since its 2007 record, "A Long Day for the Weathervane."

Career highlights: Formerly known as The Sidehill Gougers, the four-piece has released a few EPs along with its full-length output.

When the band is playing: Jan. 11 (the group also will appear at Ski Jam on Jan. 13)

Reckless Kelly

Led by the Braun brothers, Reckless Kelly continues its 11-year tradition of offering music that is as close to rock as it is to Texas-fueled country. As fiddle, mandolin and harmonica player Cody Braun told 4 Points before his band's 2008 MusicFest appearance, "There won't be any teddy bears or roses onstage."

Career highlights: After releasing two studio records and one live recording on keynote Americana label Sugar Hill Records, Reckless Kelly has moved to North Carolina music mainstay Yep Roc Records, and released an album, "Bulletproof," in June 2008.

When the band is playing: Jan. 7 and Jan. 11

Pure Prairie League

Probably best known for its early 1970s hit "Amie," Pure Prairie League has been performing with various rosters since the group formed in 1969. Since reuniting, the group has retained a laidback, folksy sound.

Career highlights: Hits include "Amie" and "Let Me Love You Tonight." The band spent the 1970s on RCA Records.

When the band is playing: Jan. 10

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