Kinky Friedman has a well-deserved reputation as the prankster of the Lone Star State's singer/songwriter community, the self-proclaimed "Texas Jewboy" whose bent sense of humor and flexible attitude about good taste made him a cult hero practically guaranteed never to break through to mainstream acceptance. (Friedman ended up enjoying greater popular success as a mystery novelist than as a musician.) But anyone who has dug deep into Friedman's catalog knows his jokes are smarter than they might seem on the surface, and that along with numbers like "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "Asshole from El Paso," the man has a genuinely thoughtful side. Friedman has decided to give his soulful and contemplative nature its moment in the spotlight on his 2015 album The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, a primarily acoustic set where Friedman summons up a late-night mood that feels bluesy without leaning on 12-bar numbers. Significantly, this album is also mainly devoted to the work of other songwriters; Friedman only wrote three of the album's 12 songs, and two of them, "Lady Yesterday" and "Wild Man of Borneo," date back to the '70s. Kinky's skill as a singer has long been more about bravado than technique, and time has left his instrument a bit sandy, but the grain of his voice and the sleepy insistence of his delivery on tunes like "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis," "Hungry Eyes," and "Pickin' Time" add to their strength. Friedman brings a fear and regret to Warren Zevon's "My Shit's Fucked Up" that's honestly powerful, and he duets with Willie Nelson on "Bloody Mary Morning" in a version that adds some well-worn wisdom to the tune's insouciance. And if Kinky hits the notes only moderately better than Lee Marvin on "Wand'rin Star," he conveys its spirit beautifully. The notion of Kinky Friedman as a reflective song stylist might take some getting used to for some fans, but The Loneliest Man I Ever Met shows he can pull it off better than most would expect, and if his singing is a long way from perfect, the heart and soul are present at all times.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming