Why the Hell Not...The Songs of Kinky Friedman
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2006, Volume 13, #9
Written by John Metzger
A former psychology student at the University of Texasí Austin campus, Kinky Friedman, backed by a band he dubbed The Texas Jewboys, constructed a strangely fascinating career for himself as a songwriter who was hellbent on skewering society with his Swift-ian country and western-oriented fare. Although he never amassed much beyond a cult following, he managed to parlay his limited success into a performance slot with Bob Dylanís Rolling Thunder Revue as well as an appearance on Saturday Night Live. For the past 20 years, however, Friedman has focused primarily on writing equally bizarre mystery novels and making infrequent contributions to Rolling Stone, but itís his recent bid for Governor of Texas that has served as the inspiration for an updated (and seriously modified) rendition of the tribute set Pearls in the Snow. Renamed after Friedmanís campaign slogan and suitably delivered by an array of country music renegades, including Charlie and Bruce Robison, Jason Boland, Delbert McClinton, and Dwight Yoakam, Why the Hell Not...The Songs of Kinky Friedman provides a sterling overview of his work.
Itís likely that Todd Snider, who undoubtedly is a Friedman disciple, couldnít resist the twisted, incisive irreverence of They Ainít Makiní Jews Like Jesus Anymore, while an inspired pairing of Reckless Kelly and Asleep at the Wheel does justice to the tongue-in-cheek love song Homo Erectus. Elsewhere, Kevin Fowler turns Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed into a playful country romp that pokes fun at redneck, male chauvinism; while Willie Nelson, who originally was slated to produce Friedmanís sophomore effort, renders Ride íEm Jewboy, a poignant remembrance of the Holocaust, as if it was his own. Nevertheless, itís Lyle Lovett who provides the highlight of Why the Hell Not...The Songs of Kinky Friedman by beautifully capturing the somber essence of Sold American, Friedmanís tale of a former Grand Ole Opry star who has fallen upon hard times.
In staying firmly within a country-oriented framework, the artists contributing to Why the Hell Not...The Songs of Kinky Friedman dutifully kept the emphasis upon Friedmanís cleverly crafted lyrics, and in some cases, the material actually fares better than it did on his original studio recordings. Taken in conjunction with Mayhem Aforethought, which contained a recently discovered 1973 concert, the collection ought to revive interest in Friedmanís songwriting, which means that he just might have more of a music career on which to fall back should he fail in his political aspirations. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box