« June 21, 2013

The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts

Billy Bob Thornton: actor, rocker, Southern raconteur
Review by Tim Stegall

The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts

by Billy Bob Thornton & Kinky Friedman
William Morrow, 320 pp., $16.99 (paper)

Of Arkansas polymath Billy Bob Thornton's many talents – actor, screenwriter, director, musician – "Southern storyteller" might be his greatest. A single viewing of Sling Blade, the 1996 indie film classic that made Thornton's name, demonstrates that, but the point gets underlined throughout The Billy Bob Tapes. Longtime local cigar enthusiast Kinky Friedman, a formidable author/songwriter/raconteur in his own right, coaxes Thornton into a recording studio and lets him talk, transcribing the monologues into chapters that flow like Southern poetry. Tales of wild-eyed, impoverished Southern youth in the Sixties and Seventies turn into teenage years spent playing in or roadie-ing for Southern rock bands, which gives rise to a Hollywood power player in anything-but-conventional fashion who uses said power to find an audience for his continuing musical ambitions. Friedman stays out of the way, instead inserting eyewitness testimonials by everyone from writing partner Tom Epperson to songwriter Dwight Yoakam, which make organizational sense of Thornton's monologues. Like everything else its subject and co-author touches, The Billy Bob Tapes rings real and true.