Robert Earl Keen, Deep Dark Woods

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Editorial Review

ROBERT EARL KEEN
Album review: "Ready for Confetti"

If Robert Earl Keen wasn't an avid fan of Stephen King before the holiday season, chances are he is now. The best-selling author put Keen's new album, "Ready for Confetti," on his "Top 20 of 2011" list, noting that Keen is "an ironist with a soft spot for both strivers and losers." Keen is that, all right, and as countless observers have pointed out over the past 20 years, he's boisterous, cutting and engaging, too.

"Ready for Confetti" isn't flawless, but for those who have acquired a taste for Keen's irrepressible spirit and Texas-honed songcraft, rest assured: He rarely disappoints this time out. Highlights? "The Road Goes On and On" is so lacerating that it brings to mind Bob Dylan's "Idiot Wind." The Western romance "Black Baldy Stallion" soulfully underscores Keen's ties to Townes Van Zandt's evocative narratives. "Who Do Man" comes across as a boastful blues novelty from the pre-rock era, and the title track toggles between Caribbean bounce and Southern blues.

Kudos to veteran guitarist and producer Lloyd Maines. He not only oversaw the making of "Ready for Confetti," but the finesse he displays on a dozen string instruments is one of the album's brightest charms.

--Mike Joyce, Jan. 13, 2012