Author Archive

Kinky Friedman “Sold American”

Most country music is geared toward tear-in-the-beer stylings, but no other country album makes me sob into my Budweiser quite like Sold American. And not because it’s overtly sad – Kinky Friedman is a fearless humorist who turns racist rednecks and rough treatment into comedic gold – but because too much of this 1973 album still rings true nearly four decades later. In the vein of comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, Friedman shines a bright light on the bigoted, hypocritical underbelly of the land of the free, and uses every taboo word in the book to get the effect he’s after.

“Kinky Friedman… is on his way to becoming the first Texas-Jewish country music star,” proclaims Newsweek from the back of the album cover. And if the delicious absurdity of that statement appeals to you, the songs surely will too. ‘We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To You’ recounts Friedman being slurred and insulted out of a “bullethead cafe” by an intolerant restaurateur. ‘Highway Cafe’ has a chorus of “oh make it a corned beef on rye” and features two rednecks recounting a fatal trucking accident with infectious dumb laughter (“AHAHAHAHA AHEEHEEHEEHEE”). ‘Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed’ is an anti-feminist rant the likes of which is unimaginable today, while the title track is a wistful, beautiful ballad about a fading America, that could serve as the theme song for PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. Like the rest of Sold American, ‘Ride ‘Em Jewboy’ is both lovely and ludicrous.

In 2006, Friedman mounted a serious, and seriously offbeat, campaign for governor of Texas. Campaign slogans included “He ain’t Kinky, he’s my Governor” and “My governor is a Jewish Cowboy” and Friedman qualified himself thusly: “Musicians can run this state better than politicians. We won’t get a lot done in the mornings, but we’ll work late and be honest.” He pulled a respectable 12.6% of the vote and finished fourth out of six candidates. Friedman might be a funny Jewish cowboy, but he’s a also a thoughtful, driven Texan who has made Lone Star statements like “If you ain’t Texan, I ain’t got time for you.”

Like his politics, Friedman’s music might appear silly, but it’s ultimately serious stuff. His band featured top-notch Nashville session musicians like guitarist Norman Blake and pianist David Briggs, and this music is as polished as a new mandolin. But nobody else in Nashville (or anywhere else for that matter) was singing ballads about Texas Clock Tower shooter Charles Whitman or suggesting we roll Jesus into a big fat doobie and get high on religion. Friedman’s funny, but in the end the joke’s on us – racism, mass murder, religious intolerance, misogyny, hyper-materialism. Kinky Friedman may have held his fun house mirror up to this country in 1973, but the songs remain the same…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Sold American”

:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Vanguard | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Vanguard | buy at amazon ]

Mac Gayden “Skyboat”

Note: Today’s post comes from dk, author to one of the finest vintage music blogs around: dk presents. Don’t miss subscribing over there and look forward to some more Storm reviews from dk in the future.

The story of Mac Gayden’s Skyboat is one of bad promotion, bad cover art, and bad luck. Gayden was a top-notch Nashville session guitarist who made an uncredited appearance on Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, played the distinctive slide guitar on J.J. Cale’s ‘Crazy Mama’, and wrote hit songs such as ‘Everlasting Love’ (part of which he claims to have written on his grandmother’s piano when he was just five years old). This 1976 album is a pleasing amalgamation of many 70’s musical styles – country rock instrumentation, soulful vocals, pop sheen (string charts courtesy of Bergen White), and an overall singer-songwriter sensibility. Wedged stylistically between Cat Stevens and Poco, Skyboat should have been Gayden’s breakthrough.

Instead, paint-by-numbers promotion men in Los Angeles saw a Nashville artist and assumed Skyboat was a country record, which it most definitely is not. By pushing this album as country and sending it out exclusively to country stations, ABC Records effectively ensured its doom. And there’s no way to put this kindly – that album art is atrocious. The awkward creature flying across that cover is in no way representative of the 11 highly-polished cuts on this record, and certainly didn’t help its cause.

Opener ‘Morning Glory’ has hit written all over it. One of the great lost tunes of the ’70s, this song is so good that you’ll sing along the first time you hear it. Gayden shows off his considerable guitar chops in two places on this song, but particularly on his solo near its conclusion. Sublime stuff. ‘Gettysburg’ is a stirring, minor-key, banjo-tinged ode to the South that was recorded in a thunderstorm and sounds like a blueprint for Will Oldham’s career. Gayden lays down his own version of ‘Everlasting Love’ (since covered by nearly everyone, including U2), which ironically might be the least heard of the many versions in circulation. Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Look Back’ is a bold re-wiring of a Temptations’ song that makes perfect sense in this context, and ‘Diamond Mandala’ closes the album with 10 minutes of Appalachian fever dream that conjures Sandy Bull, Aaron Copland and Native American spirit dances.

Gayden told Mojo magazine in 2002 that “By the time [radio] realized the album [wasn’t country] it was too late, and many stations refused to play the record because of ABC, not because of me. It put an end to my career… so I do have some bittersweet memories.” The memories might be bittersweet, but the music is pure nectar…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Morning Glory”

:D CD 2fer | 2008 | Big Beat | buy at amazon ]
:) Orig Vinyl |  1976 | ABC | search ebay ]