Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Kinky Friedman

Jazz Cafe, Camden Town, Tuesday 3 June 2008


I’ve been aware of Kinky Friedman for years. Once you’ve heard his name, it’s not one you’re likely to forget. I’ve read a few of his humorous detective novels, knew of his involvement in Bob Dylan’s mid-70s Rolling Thunder Review tour and enjoyed following his optimistic bid for the Texas Governor’s mansion in 2006. I remember a tutor at Goldsmiths telling me that interviewing the Kinkster for the Jewish Chronicle was a professional high-point. Yet, considering he made his name as a country singer, until last night, I’d barely heard a song he’d written (despite them having such great titles as They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore).

Kinky took to the Jazz Café stage with his long-time guitarist Washington Ratso and gurning keyboard player Little Jewford (“he’s Jewish and he drives a Ford”). Their website accurately promised that “this is no ordinary musical tour; it's over-the-top entertainment!”. At one point Jewford, dressed in a jacket Kinky described as looking like “Liberace’s shower curtain”, did a Bill Bailey style turn, interpreting When the Saints Go Marching In, in Eastern European, classical, country and jazz styles, before finishing by playing it with his hands behind his back. We were also treated to Kinky’s recollections and policy ideas from the campaign trail and a reading from his latest book.

Many of his songs were funny (Asshole From El Paso), politically incorrect (Get Your Biscuits In The Oven and Your Buns in The Bed) and in poor, er, taste (Waitret, Please Waitret) but there was plenty in the set list that ‘serious’ singer-songwriters would be proud of. Sold American is a brilliant portrait of a fading country star and a fading nation and despite its tongue-in-cheek title, Ride ‘Em Jewboy is actually a reflection on the Holocaust. The set ended with two classics, Woody Guthrie’s Pretty Boy Floyd and Peter La Farge’s tribute to Kinky’s “favourite American hero” The Ballad of Ira Hayes.

Still, most memorable were Kinky’s numerous witticisms and one-liners – and the cigar-chomper’s defiance of the smoking ban.

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