David Allan Coe

For the Soul and for the Mind: Demos of '71-'74

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For the Soul and for the Mind: Demos of 1971-1974 is an astonishing document. Basically, it is a found reel of David Allan Coe's earliest demos as a staff songwriter for the late Pete Drake's Window Music publishing company. Coe was paid a "draw" of $100.00 a week. The draw was basically a loan against royalties if and when a songwriter scored. The reel was found by Drake's widow, Rose, and handed over to Steve Popovich, who took it to Coe. The 15th cut is a demo from 2001, recorded at home. This is hardcore country music, from honky tonk ballads to drinking anthems to truck driving country tunes to story songs -- all written before Coe exposed his ""Long Haired Redneck"" persona. Sound quality varies a bit, but is mostly very good. Sometimes Coe is backed only by his guitar, at other times, by a small session band -- no matter what the setting, his work here shines. Regardless of the fact that none of them really hit, these cuts offer shining proof of Coe's status as a poet. "Teardrops and Wine," despite being a solo acoustic tune, was clearly written for Jerry Lee Lewis during his Mercury period -- he gets name-checked in the refrain. Likewise, "The Bottle" seems to have been composed with George Jones in mind. Its soaring crescendos and steady, slow honky tonk shuffle seem tailor-made for Billy Sherrill's production style. The roughest track here, sound-wise, is "When Jesus Was a Rumor," a confessional novelty song, but it is no throwaway. Painful and painstaking honesty has always been Coe's trademark, and it is here. "No Place Left to Run" is one of the songwriter's excellent, dual-line narrative ballads. And so it goes. Selection after selection uncovers Coe's ready talent, not quite honed but nonetheless expressive, provocative, and able. The final offering, "Don't You Cry," is a startling portrait of the artist on the other side. He's no longer swinging for the radio fences, but he's hungry for the Muse nonetheless. There is also a bonus DVD with the set that has three tunes from Coe's early period -- all of them illuminating and haunting, as well. This is a must for fans and a fine way to see what all the fuss was about back in the day.

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