Release Date: Aug 29, 2011
Record label: Lost Highway
Genre(s): Country, Folk, Americana, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
Sometimes you need to go back to the beginning to remember where you came from. Robert Earl Keen has obviously taken a long, hard look at the music he's been making since 1997's Picnic, the album that put him on the map commercially and made him a superstar in Texas. Keen's records after 1994's Gringo Honeymoon have, no matter how commercially successful and stylistically and sonically imaginative, lacked the focus of his earlier ones.
Somewhere in the gulf between Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell and Lyle Lovett and next wave Lone Stars Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Stoney LaRue, Randy Rogers and Hayes Carll, Robert Earl Keen put down roots—and was slightly less visible for the lack of a scene. But the journeyman troubadour, a Lone Star fixture for more than three decades, took his energy and applied it to his craft. Instead of bitching about not being famous, he crafted 16 albums that stand as a measure of what a split rail songwriter/artist can be.
Robert Earl Keen is a creature of habit, retreating to his private cabin (somewhat pretentiously dubbed “The Scriptorium”) every couple of years to crank out a new album’s worth of sturdy Americana songs that draw the same set of comparisons to other acclaimed singer-songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Keen’s a fine songwriter (those comparisons to Van Zandt may be rote by now, but he’s most certainly earned them), but perhaps too predictable as a recording artist. So Keen’s claims that he intended to throw out his usual formula for his latest album, Ready for Confetti, are worth more than just passing attention.
Robert Earl Keen is a one of the quintessential voices of central Texas. Not as a singer—though his delivery has some magic to it—but as a songwriter and a storyteller. He’s what a country artist should be and nothing it’s not: clever, but not contrived; wise, but not intellectual; tough, but not macho; and, above all, honest. His lyrics are cerebral—that will never change, but his tone will.
After more than 30 years, Robert Earl Keen continues telling stories that imprint listeners in a manner that's unforced and cogent, and Ready for Confetti finds him stretching a bit musically. Most will be immediately drawn to "The Road Goes On and On. " With the often-covered "The Road Goes On Forever," Keen almost single-handedly invented the Red Dirt music scene, and while the title of the new song implies a follow-up, it's a venom-laced stomper that will set tongues wagging trying to figure out exactly which clown he's referring to.