Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Oct. 17, 2003
Kinky FriedmanSold American 30th Anniversary Edition (Vanguard) Long before he became a celebrated mystery novelist, salsa magnate, and friend to George W. Bush, Kinky Friedman injected country music with a much-needed dose of high-minded irreverence. He epitomized the Swiftian notion of equal opportunity offender, rattling the cages of both rednecks and radicals. Even today, "The Ballad of Charles Whitman," Friedman's freewheeling take on the UT Tower shootings, manages to retain much of its comedic shock value. Friedman's 1973 debut also reminds us that his clever songwriting was no less effective in jest-free settings. The title track paints an evocative portrait of a drunken Grand Ole Opry veteran living out of his time, waiting to die on the frosty streets of Nashville. "Ride 'Em Jewboy" expands upon its provocative title to become a poignant, Western-style meditation on enduring the Holocaust. When Friedman switches to a more traditional, tear-in-your-beer style on "Western Union Wire," he keeps the love-gone-wrong tale interesting by writing the chorus in the form of a telegram. Two previously unreleased songs from the Sold American sessions, "Nashville Casualty and Life" and "Tramp on the Street," and a video interview round out the package nicely. On the latter, Friedman observes that "all of the good people are cult people." This reissue should expand the Kinkster's own cult exponentially.