Written by Jane Ponte – November 23, 2019

It isn’t every day that a legend comes to town, so when I was presented with the opportunity to do a show review for music provocateur Kinky Friedman, I jumped on it. The Texas icon is still going strong at the tender age of 75 and has recently released some of the best music of his career. Friedman was in town at The Mucky Duck during the last week of November in support of his latest album, Resurrection (Echo Hill Records, 2019).  The album, which was produced by multi-instrumentalist, 3-time Grammy winner Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), showcases a side of Friedman that is poignant and thoughtful, while also delivering goods that are both relevant and radio-ready. Friedman brought his ‘A’ game to The Duck last weekend for two shows, and reminded us that while he may not be writing the politically incorrect, irreverent songs that were his trademark in his heyday, he is still a force to be reckoned with and indeed still has plenty to say.

Dubbing it “The Merry Kinkster Tour,” Friedman cruised into town with Americana singer-songwriter Brian Molnar, former Greezy Wheels frontman Cleve Hattersley, and Hattersley’s wife, Sweet Mary Hattersley. The foursome did two shows, and I caught the tail end of the first show and the second one in its entirety. I’m not sure exactly what transpired during all of the first sold-out show, but I do know that when I swung the door of The Duck open, the audience was in stitches as Kinky regaled them with a tale from his colorful past. Not surprising, but certainly a delightful glimpse of what the evening had in store for those of us lucky enough to snag spots for the second show. I noticed Hattersley and Molnar over by the merch table, so I went over to introduce myself and pick up a copy of Hattersley’s new book, “Life is a Butt Dial.” Molnar–who produced the two albums prior to this new Kinky album—could not have been more charming if he tried, and his set during the 2nd show was both rootsy and flawless. He truly has an old soul, and his stage presence and kind demeanor permeated the entire evening, offering on at least two occasions to assist both Sweet Mary and Kinky when a technical difficulty or two presented itself. Hattersley and Sweet Mary took the stage shortly after Molnar’s set, and in between stories from Hattersley’s new tell-all book about life with the Greezy Wheels and beyond, performed some original material and tickled the audience with their unique chemistry. Sweet Mary’s fluid and effortless fiddle playing and Hattersley’s offbeat brand of humor, superbly crafted songwriting, and hilarious exchanges with audience members made their 30-minute set seem altogether much too short. But then it was time for Kinky.

When you’ve been a member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review, ran for both Governor and agricultural commissioner of Texas, partied with Iggy Pop, Bill Clinton, Willie Nelson and hundreds of other notable figures, written more than 30 books and rescued various and sundry needy creatures of all types, it’s pretty tough to continue to raise the bar for yourself, but Friedman has managed to do just that with this new album. Although he treated his crowd to some old favorites such as “Homo Erectus” (1974) and “Ride ‘em Jewboy” (1973), along with quintessential folk favorites such as “The Ballad of Ira Hayes, written by Johnny Cash in 1964, and Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd” (1958), Friedman’s new material stood on its own, was well-received and was delivered in a sentimental, truly heartfelt style. Highlights from the new album were “Resurrection,” the album’s title track (which is a duet with old pal Willie Nelson), “Dog in the Sky,” a wistful tune about one of his favorite canine companions who fell prey to the coyotes on Friedman’s Kerrville ranch, and “I Love You When it Rains,” which–dare I say–is a love song. Who says you can’t teach an old(ish) dog new tricks? If Kinky’s in love, then we’re all surely happy for him.

It would not have been a proper Kinky Friedman show if he hadn’t cracked a few jokes and shared a pearl or two of wisdom with all of us. He definitely did all of that. And, at one point in the show, his phone rang. When he pulled it out in order to silence it, he ended up handing it to an audience member in sheer frustration, asking the guy to turn it off for him. Unfortunately, the guy couldn’t figure out (or remember)-how to do it—because The Kinkster has a flip phone.  So–after taking his phone back and muttering something about how even Jesus rode in on a jackass, the audience howled, and the show continued. All in a day’s work, when you’re Kinky Friedman.

As the evening wound down, Friedman reminded us that he was grateful for all of us, that he would love to meet everyone, and that he was willing to sign “anything but bad legislation.” He left us with these parting words: “Falling on your face is still moving forward…”. Pearls of wisdom from The Kinkster, who seems to have mastered the art of moving forward. If this new material is any indication of what’s to come from Kinky Friedman, I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for us next.