Kinky Friedman

The Last of the Jewish Cowboys: The Best of Kinky Friedman

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While conventional wisdom has it that Texas is a hotbed of conservative thought and social conformity, the Lone Star State also has a long and rich tradition of creative eccentrics, from Willie Nelson and Doug Sahm to Roky Erickson and the Butthole Surfers, and it says a lot that predominantly Christian Texas would spawn (and eagerly embrace) one of country music's greatest outlaw satirists, Kinky Friedman, the self-described "Texas Jewboy." While these days he's most famous as a best-selling mystery novelist, Friedman has also had a long career as a singer and songwriter, best known for bad-taste satire such as "Asshole from El Paso," "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns in the Bed," and "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore." But Friedman is capable of a lot more than that; he can also write funny tunes with a sharp and unforgiving edge, such "The Ballad of Charles Whitman" and "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You," while "Ride 'em Jewboy" is an cockeyed but moving take on the place of the Holocaust in Jewish history, and "Sold American" and "Before All Hell Breaks Loose" tell bittersweet moral fables of American life in the 20th century. In short, the man knows how to write a really good song, both funny and otherwise, and he can sing well enough to make his country gestures more than just a shtick. Friedman is good enough to be more than a novelty act, but just weird enough that most folks will never get him; consequently, despite his cult following, most of his albums are out of print these days, and there's been a real need for a decent sampler offering an overview of Friedman's career in music. Shout Factory has finally stepped up with just such an album, The Last of the Jewish Cowboys: The Best of Kinky Friedman, which includes all the abovementioned songs along with seven other titles from his four-decade-spanning back catalog. This set leans heavily on Kinky's novelty numbers at the expense of his less gimmicky but more satisfying songs, and this plays more like the work of a musical comic than one of the more unusual products of the Texas outlaw country scene, which is where Friedman truly belongs. Still, this is as good a place as any for newcomers to get a taste of Kinky's musical world view, and it's a good place to start exploring the man's odd but satisfying music. Besides, it's a good idea for you get to know the future governor of Texas sometime, right?

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