Various Artists: Why the Hell Not…: The Songs of Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman has written an impressive body of tunes over the years, doing the Lone Star state proud.

Various Artists

Why the Hell Not...: The Songs of Kinky Friedman

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2006-09-26
UK Release Date: Available as import

Kinky Friedman has been in the national media recently because he's running as an independent candidate for the governor of Texas, and he has a shot at winning. Additionally, Friedman is probably more famous today for his best-selling, smart-ass tough guy mystery novels than he is for his music. However, Friedman has written an impressive body of tunes over the years, doing the Lone Star state proud. This isn't just a layman's opinion. In his prime, musicians like Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton played on his recordings, Billy Joe Shaver toured the world with him, and has Willie Nelson routinely sung Kinky's praises as well as songs.

The Red Headed Stranger also contributes his vocals to this new collection of Friedman's material as sung in tribute by other musicians. Nelson's version of "Ride 'em Jewboy" reveals the pathos of Friedman's lyrics about the Holocaust without being maudlin. While Kinky's black humor and biting satire are clearly evident as he compares concentration camps with cattle round ups, tunes like this one also suggest the depth and breadth of the Texan's writing talents. Nelson sings it straight -- just like Friedman wrote it -- to show the degradation that occurs when people are treated like animals. Dwight Yoakam also vocalizes earnestly for full-effect. The Bakersfield boy's cover of "Rapid City, South Dakota" poignantly conveys the sadness and dreams of a young man running away from home and deserting his pregnant girlfriend. Friedman's narrative evokes the pathos of a boy who escapes a life of settling down, but can't help but be haunted by the thoughts and memories of a girl he has loved -- and maybe still does.

If it seems like you've heard those renditions before, it's because you might have. Four of the ten tracks (including Lyle Lovett's "Sold American" and Delbert McClinton's "Autograph") on this new album were previously released on an earlier tribute to Kinky, Pearls in the Snow, back in 1999. This new disc was issued to help raise Kinky's profile and some funds before the November election. Whatever you think about his politics, the music lover in you should be thankful.

The six fresh tracks are well worth the price of admission. There's a kick butt version of Friedman's silly ode to a lady anthropology professor, "Homo Erectus", that features the booming bass voice of Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson played against the jaunty rhythms of the band Reckless Kelly. Married couple Bruce Robinson and Kelly Willis sweetly harmonize on a song that celebrates the virtues of long-lasting love, "Lady Yesterday". Bruce's brother Charlie does an emotionally touching cover of an homage to a circus freak, "Wild Man of Borneo", which implicitly shows the psychological connections we all share as human beings that have known the pains of love.

But Todd Snider's update of "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore" provides the album's highlight. Snider retains the offensive lyrics, meant to poke fun of racists of all types, and the bouncy barrel-house rhythms that would sound right at home in an Old West whorehouse. He spits out the lines with glee (i.e. "We Jews believe it was Santa Claus that killed Jesus Christ") and basks in the glory of Kinky in the governor's mansion. "Why not Kinky?" Snider shouts, as he preaches about the end of ethnocentrism.

Yeah, why not? You don't have to be Jewish to like Kinky. Most of the performers on this collection certainly are not. But it helps if you like Texas music, because Kinky and the overwhelming majority of the contributors hail from the Lone Star state, and play in the tradition that has made Austin famous. That's only appropriate for a man that wants to sit in that city's capital building and lead Texas into the future.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.