Kinky Friedman

Resurrection (Echo Hill Records)

Texas Platters

The prodigal Kinkster's return to studio form began with The Loneliest Man I Ever Met (2015) and Circus of Life (2018). Both kicked against the Nashville pricks with stark, strum-and-done temperament. Resurrection bucks too, but this time, the boundless bachelor and lonely herdsman of Echo Hill Ranch follows the ground rules of radio-friendly country. Nary a bum note in sight, Larry Campbell's flawless production underpins Friedman's rough-around-the-saddle vocals and sentimental grit, which stand out more than ever in the dull crash of cymbals and pruned patches of perfect picking. As big-hearted as Kris Kristofferson, as turn-of-phrase as Terry Allen, Richard Friedman scribes homespun cosmic stanzas as easily as he smokes good cigars. Track by track, the songwriter reincarnate shares the soft spots coursing through earlier work ("Ride 'Em Jewboy," "Lady Yesterday"), albeit often sidelined by a coarse-cut brand of satire (his infamous cover of "Asshole From El Paso"). Catching the blues without blue punch lines, characters wander all over Resurrection's post-Tompall Glaser landscape, their outcomes uncertain and varied. For Kinky, the bittersweet fruits of freedom line many paths: patriotic sentiment ("Carryin' the Torch"); reinvention (the title track); and death ("Ai! Mariachi"). In the mellow rhapsody of "Mandela's Blues," he clarifies, "It's a long walk to freedom, with no one to show you the way." During tearjerker "A Dog in the Sky," Friedman, 75, mourns his dog's demise in a duet of grief with pedal steel, as he nearly cries, "You could hardly hear, you could scarcely see, now my little ol' man is free, free, free."

****

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