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Robert Earl Keen Is Getting ‘Ready for Confetti’

Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images

One of Texas’ most revered tunesmiths will release his 16th album in August. Robert Earl Keen‘s ‘Ready for Confetti’ showcases his passion for life and his talent as a wordsmith who paints vivid pictures of the characters he meets throughout his travels.

“I’m an OK singer, player and melody guy when it comes to making up a song, but I feel my gift is my lyrics,” Robert reveals. “They have always come easily for me and I’ve enjoyed it. When I was doing this record I thought, ‘I’ve done all that. I don’t need to keep on provoking thought or making people want to sit up and listen to this. I really would like to write the best songs I can in the best way I can and let the songs speak for themselves.’ So I sat down and really dropped my guard about how it needs to be different. I stuck to strumming my guitar and working in my mind toward lyrics that came easily and sang well and made sense.”

Another difference for the Texas singer this time was where he wrote the tunes. He normally takes several weeks to go to his cabin, aptly named Scriptorium, to write, forsaking writing on the road because he always thought it was too sterile an environment, or he knew he would be too tired.

“Last year, I just decided that we were going to throw that rule away and write on the road,” he says. Robert wrote nine of the songs on the disc, and co-wrote another one with songwriting master Dean Dillon.

“I threw certain formulas totally out the window because I just don’t always believe in convention as the best way to serve your purpose, as far as singing songs that people enjoy. However, on this one I stuck to more concise ideas, more universal themes and more sing-able melodies. Consequently it has somewhat more of a conventional sound than any of my records.”

The troubadour’s fans are a universal group, ranging on any given night from the blue collar worker and the white collar executive; the young college student and the middle-aged man or woman enjoying a night on the town. His blend of country, folk, blues, jazz and rocks brings a certain sensibility to his music, which his fans recognize as a unique element they will only hear when they tune in to the man whose career spans 30 years.

“For our generation of songwriters, he is the Townes Van Zandt, the songwriter’s songwriter,” proclaims Randy Rogers, lead singer of the Texas-based Randy Rogers Band. “I believe his place in the Hall of Fame is in stone. The places I have been fortunate enough to play all had Robert before anybody else. There was no scene until Robert created it. His formula works. Period.”

The tone of the album is set by the title track, Robert explains. “I was really driving for something clean and pretty. When I wrote that song, then I felt like that title reflected a new page or a new chapter in what I’m doing. I wanted it to feel bright and colorful and exciting and perhaps all new.”

The sarcasm is still there on ‘The Road Goes On and On,’ with its sassy melody and biting lyrics, and he re-recorded his country ballad, ‘Paint the Town Beige.’ There’s a splash of reggae in the tune accompanying the love-lost lyrics of ‘Waves on the Ocean,’ and he offers a fun summer song with the swing number, ‘Top Down.’ He also does a cover of Todd Snider‘s ‘Play a Train Song.’

“I love the song and Todd is one of my favorite entertainers,” Robert notes. “I started picking around on that song and it really fit me. It just felt good. It does what my songs do for me. I can see every image exactly the same every time I see it.”

‘Ready for Confetti’ will be released August 30. It was produced by Texas-based producer and steel guitarist extraordinaire Lloyd Maines. This is the second time Lloyd and Robert have worked together; the first was the 2009 CD, ‘The Rose Hotel.’ In fact, it was Lloyd who convinced the singer to record the 1914 blues-gospel standard, ‘Soul of a Man,’ which he sometimes performs acoustically and without a microphone at the end of a show.

“It never fails, it is the favorite part of the whole show for everybody, no matter how well we played,” Robert concedes. “I love the message: If you lead a good life, your spirit never dies’.”

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