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Kinky Friedman’s First New Album Is 39 Years

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Renowned raconteur KINKY FRIEDMAN is set to release
The Loneliest Man I Ever Met

his first album of new material in 39 years, on Avenue A / Thirty Tigers.

“Mark Twain meets Groucho Marx,at the corner of Johnny Cash and
Lenny Bruce,”

Legendary outlaw country singer-songwriter, activist, politician, entrepreneur, novelist and Texas Jewboy is joined by Willie Nelson on disc mixing originals with interpretations of Cash, Waits, Zevon, Dylan and others 

 Kerrville, Texas:  Nobody could invent a character quite like Kinky Friedman – the stogie-smoking, black-hat-wearing Texas  Jewboy – singer, storyteller, purveyor of his own brands of tequila and cigars, animal rescuer and full-time iconoclast. As anyone who saw Rich Hall’s recent homage to the Lone Star State, broadcast on BBC4, will know, above all, Kinky counts himself as Texan first and foremost.

Though renowned for penning some of outlaw country’s most outrageous songs, authoring bestsellers and running for governor of Texas, his 45-year career includes touring with Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue; recording with Clapton, The Band and Ringo Starr, appearing on Saturday Night Live and at the Grand Ole Opry, and writing one of Nelson Mandela’s favourite songs. He also became the protagonist of his own crime novels, because even he couldn’t invent a character that could out-kink Kinky Friedman.

But what he hasn’t done in 39 years is record a new studio album. Friedman’s The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, releasing this autumn, might be one of the longest-awaited follow-ups in recent memory. Not that fans have complained. The continued popularity of tunes such as Sold AmericanNashville Casualty And Life and Ride ’Em Jewboy (the Holocaust-referencing song that soothed Mandela in prison) prove Kinky is that rare talent whose work withstands the test of time. Friedman still delivers those songs – interspersed with his inimitable blend of politically incorrect quips, jokes and tales both tall and true – to appreciative audiences around the world.

 Still, there were more sentiments he needed to express – his own and those of colleagues such as Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard and his pal Willie Nelson, who produced and performs on his own Bloody Mary Morning. The album’s opening song, which also features Willie’s sister, Bobbie, on piano and Kevin Smith on stand-up bass, is rendered as a spare duet, their traded lines punctuated with Nelson’s Spanish guitar-picking. The intimacy sets the tone for the other 11 tracks, all produced by Brian Molnar and featuring guitarist Joe Cirotti, with harmonica by Willie’s Family Band mate Mickey Raphael and piano contributions by Little Jewford, Kinky’s sidekick since his first post-Peace Corps job – bandleader of the Texas Jewboys.

Though songs such as Waits’ A Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis, Haggard’sMama’s Hungry Eyes, Dylan’s Girl From The North Country and Friedman’s own Lady Yesterday, not to mention his 20-year-old, never-recorded co-write with Tim Hoover, I’m the Loneliest Man I Ever Met, seem filled with melancholy, despair and regret – and certainly, loneliness – Friedman suggests they’re something else: Romantic.

He explains, “What I’ve tried to do is interpret some of these songs. But it’s not like Tony Bennett sings Willie Nelson; it’s more spiritually halfway between those people and me. So if you’re not a little bit melancholy, maybe you should be.

“A happy American creates nothing great,” he adds. “My definition of an artist is someone who’s ahead of his time and behind on his rent. If you can figure out how to stay that way, you can write the great shit that Kris [Kristofferson] and Willie were able to do. Look at what shape Willie was in when he was writing in Nashville – he had three little kids and was just broke, living in a trailer park. Willie wrote Night LifeFunny How Time Slips Away and Crazy all in one week – a terrible week in his life.”

 Railing against such perceived evils – whether cultural, political, social or in any other realm of human experience – is one of Friedman’s favourite pastimes, which is why he calls Warren Zevon’s My Shit’s Fucked Up possibly the album’s most important song. The late Zevon wrote it as a commentary on his own failing health, but Friedman finds it a perfect allegory for the current state of world affairs. As a man who has travelled much of the planet, quotes Winston Churchill, calls two presidents pals and now labels himself “governor of the heart of Texas” (as chosen by voters everywhere but in his home state), he’s in the best position to know.

But in most cases, the selections, which also include a lesser-known Cash song that was Friedman’s father’s favourite (Pickin’ Time) and two Great American Songbook tunes (Wand’rin’ Star and A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square), reflect more personal feelings. Feelings that he’s taking out across America with 30 shows without a break on one of his famous ‘bi-polar’ tours.

There are more outrageous schemes in the works, including planning the ultimate country-music death, but Kinky fans should not concern themselves unduly, because as soon as he finishes this tour, he’ll likely start another, while also signing copies of his soon-to-be-released who-done-it, The Hard-Boiled Computer – a title that carries no small dose of irony, coming as it does from a guy who claims not to own an email or text account and who will remove the cigar stub from his mouth long enough to insist, “Real cowboys don’t tweet.”

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