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…

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“Sold American”

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


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5 Comments.

  • I live in rural Idaho and the radio choices around here range from deplorable “country” to Christian/talk. It’s hard to deal with. This is the kind of country music I wish the would play, not Toby Keith and crap like that. Can’t get enough Kinky!

  • Louder than Milk

    One of the most enjoyable acts to see live.

  • Meir

    A great album and boosted by superb musicianship. His best.

  • Nick

    Friedman might be a funny Jewish cowboy

    And he might not. Friedman abuses European Americans for their supposed ‘racism’ when they ain’t half as ethnically self-conscious as the typical Jewish American. He supports Israel, the Jewish ethno-state, but all his professed opposition to American racism is to make damn sure they don’t ever try and enjoy the same advantage. Any objective standard of racism makes Friedman, not his targets, the villain.

  • Mick

    @Nick:

    Totally irrelevant. Israel is not the subject of the LP, but racism in America. A humorist take on racism is what it is.

    Most Americans are to a degree ‘ethnically self-conscious’ whether Irish, Jewish, Black, Polish etc. To single out Jews is ridiculous. Friedman is a bona fide anti-racist and campaigner for civil rights.

    To project his supposed support of Israel onto him and then invert it to claim he is somehow a racist is intellectually dishonest. He is an American citizen and he has never claimed otherwise.

    It’s like saying anyone professing support of Malcom X is an anti-white bigot.

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