Robert Earl Keen

With his 56th birthday quickly approaching, one might think Robert Earl Keen would be happy to just coast along on two decades of music. Yet his most recent effort, Ready for Confetti, has garnered some of the best reviews since 1994's Gringo's Honeymoon, something he attributes to a newfound confidence in the recording studio. "I was always intimidated by the whole process of making a record," Keen says from his home in Kerrville. "I mean, in the past, I always had to struggle just to keep my act together. Now, I see the recording process as a tool to make your art better."

Judging by the confidence exuded in "Black Baldy Stallion" and "Lay Down My Brother," Keen's new writing style is working out just fine. Another highlight from Confetti is Keen's remake of his own "Paint the Town Beige," a song that originally appeared on 1993's A Bigger Piece of Sky. Like the rest of the album, "Paint the Town Beige" looks back at life's ups and downs and finds a way to move forward. Both song and album harken back to "The Front Porch Song" from his 1984 debut No Kinda Dancer, which was written with another quirky country tunesmith, Lyle Lovett. Although he and Lovett grew up together and attended Texas A&M University, the two don't keep in contact much these days. "We don't run in the same circles," Keen says. "Lyle runs in that higher level of music and acting circles and I am still in the bars." Kacey Musgraves opens.

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