Like most of the country neotraditionalists who have honed their Nashville chops living on the Texas plains, Robert Earl Keen is more a sentimental fool than an outlaw. When Keen lends his cracked, compassionate brogue to songs like Steve Earle’s “Tom Ames’ Prayer” or his own “Whenever Kindness Fails” (a staple in friend Joe Ely’s sets), there’s no question that the bad guys can count on this proud family man’s sympathy, if not his praise. During live shows, Keen relies more on his incisive wit than his treasure-trove of ballads. But judging from the rowdy crowd captured on his latest, No. 2 Live Dinner, Keen’s growing cult comes out of the woodwork for the gags, which generally cut as close to the bone as his love songs. Fred Eaglesmith opens at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at the Birchmere, 3901 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $17.50. (703) 549-5919. (Brett Anderson)