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Before the first note of the live 1976 version of Kinky Friedman’s lewd “Waitret, Please, Waitret,” the singer-songwriter, pulp novelist, and sadly, failed Texas gubernatorial candidate exhorts, “All right, I’m wired and inspired now, fasten your seat belts! Let’s turn on the juice! And cut the damn thing loose!” Then comes that first note: blinnng, the gentle ring of an acoustic guitar. His backing musicians fall into a punch-drunk waltz as if they’d just been roused awake, and the shtick swings.
Even though Friedman quit music a while ago to focus on, well, being Kinky Friedman, his timing is still right on, comically and politically. Along with his new best-of Last of the Texas Jewboys, the cigar-chompin’, devilishly mustachioed, sixtysomething longtime Austinite receives Why the Hell Not, a tribute album whose proceeds benefited the independent candidate’s ill-fated campaign and whose contributors include Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, and several other c&w heavies. Friedman’s tuneage can be either dark or darkly sardonic, depending. Willie and company turn the pathos on full blast, while Jewboys‘ live and studio tracks, spanning his 30-year career, are wry as intended. “Ride ‘Em, Jewboy,” the Kinkster’s high, lonesome paean to the Diaspora, doesn’t forget there’s a freaking epithet in the title; “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” (“They don’t turn the other cheek the way they done before”), which could have been Friedman’s battle hymn, draws power from performance, like a good monologue. On the tribute disc, though, roots rocker Todd Snider screws it up by singing it rather than acting it out.
By satirizing women’s lib (“Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed”), pride in ignorance (“Asshole From El Paso”), and the concerns of essentially every voting bloc imaginable (“The People Who Read People Magazine”), Friedman pisses off bleeding hearts and blue bloods, which undoubtedly explains why he ended up in fourth place.