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Robert Earl Keen

Ready for Confetti – 2011 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Robert Earl Keen

If Robert Earl Keen had been noted for little more than being Lyle Lovett's neighbor/front porch jam pal at Texas A&M in the '70s and writing The Road Goes on Forever (from his 1989 sophomore album "West Textures") and Merry Xmas from the Family (from his 1994 album, "Gringo Honeymoon"), his status as a Lone Star legend would be well secured.

Of course, those are mere bullet-point accomplishments at the top of a long and illustrious resume, and Keen is a Texas music icon of almost unassailable proportions with a catalog that may not be platinum in terms of sales, but is solid gold as far as influence is concerned.

On the basis of 10 critically hailed studio albums and a half dozen representative live releases, Keen is one of the rare artists to earn and completely deserve the esteemed title of songwriter's songwriter, as his songs have been covered and his style emulated by dozens of acknowledged greats.

On the nudgingly/winkingly titled "Ready for Confetti," there's little that Keen hasn't already done on previous outings. He delivers his stock-in-trade bouncy country odes with detailed observations that illuminate life's quirkier characters and moments (Top Down, the title track), and more seriously furrowed-brow takes on similar subjects (I Gotta Go, Black Baldy Stallion, Paint the Town Beige), which are all typically great.

The real talking point on "Ready for Confetti" is The Road Goes On and On, Keen's pointedly personal response to Toby Keith's royalty skirting rewrite of The Road Goes on Forever and a thinly veiled putdown of epic proportions ("You're a regular jack-in-the-box, in your clown suit and your goldie locks/The original liar's paradox, you'll have to Google that..."); it's Keen at his most scathingly brilliant, doing best what he's always done well and further evidence that his durable songwriting road could indeed go on forever.