Kinky Friedman

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

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Singer, songwriter, actor, novelist, and perhaps the future governor of Texas -- given Kinky Friedman's impressive résumé, you wouldn't think it would be especially hard to assemble a tribute album to the Legendary Texas Jewboy, but 2006's Why the Hell Not...: The Songs of Kinky Friedman suggests it was harder than expected to get his better-known fans to step up to the mic. Four of the ten tracks on Why the Hell Not... were borrowed from an earlier Friedman tribute, 1999's Pearls in the Snow: The Songs of Kinky Friedman, and it's worth noting the best-known names appearing here were lifted from that earlier collection (Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, and Delbert McClinton, all of whom deliver strong and affecting performances). Of the new material, Charlie Robison digs deep into the sad heart of "The Wild Man of Borneo," Jason Boland walks a fine line between wink-and-nudge wit and human tragedy on "The Gospel According to John," and Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis deliver their usual lovely harmonies on "Lady Yesterday." However, Kevin Fowler and Todd Snider try a little too hard for laughs on (respectively) "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven" and "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore," and for an album that pays homage to a gifted songwriter whose career spans four decades, ten songs in less than 40 minutes seems to barely scratch the surface. The best moments on Why the Hell Not... demonstrate that Friedman is a first-rate tunesmith whose sense of humor doesn't detract from his ability to tell a powerful story when he's inspired, but there just aren't enough of them here, and with four of the best songs taken from another disc, one wonders if it would have been better and easier to simply reissue Pearls in the Snow.

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