Live a Little, Big Kenny’s re-released, pre—Big & Rich solo album, brings the noise candy, not the nose candy. It’s a skyful of Purple Planetberries, exploding on cue, presented 2 U by B.K., a psych-pop-goes-the-country P.T. Barnum, bopping through amber waves with his drum machine: a confidence man, in every sense and nonsense.
A true con artist has to love his (and all!) mythology, so Kenny’s as much wistful crooner as carny barker when singing through a megaphone-like vocoder about “a place where dreams come true.” He gets his comeuppance in “Cheater’s Lament.” Even more so, in “Think Too Much,” with virtual drumsticks bouncing off the impervious cello-and-viola cloud of his Orbisonic orbit.
But Roy O. was a Traveling Wilbury, of course (alchemizing with a Bard, a Beatle, an ELO, and a Petty). Which may be why his lonely soul mate Big K.’s only answer, my friends, is the molten-candle-wax Spaghetti Western Mystery Tour that never ends. (With a tip of Big’s feathered top hat to “Dor-oh-thee, and Lit-tle To-To,” in “Rather Be.”)
Down here on the ground where the air is brown and El Lay meets Nash Vegas, Big Kenny’s compadre, young Jon Nicholson, listens to the silence all night long. Oh, he can soul-shout all he wants to, but li’l pauses keep getting in between the spooky teeth of Wurlitzer piano on his debut joint, A Lil Sump’m Sump’m. He can dream about a blissfully rolling, Michael Hurley—worthy “Grass River,” and a “Grandma” who gets high and flies to glory. But he’ll wake up, shook up by a girl who “steps to the car,” to ask if he’s cool. Probably meaning “Are you a cop?” But he’s shivering: “Well, how would I know, how does anybody know?” How is his (small-time showbiz) hustle any different from hers? “If you listen to yourself, you’re just lying to yourself.” But actually, it’s OK, Jon’s cool.