Monday, November 16, 2009

Kinky Friedman at World Café Live

Why am I writing a concert review when this column is supposed to be about premium cigars? Let's just say it's because the artist in question, a one Mr. Kinky Friedman, is rarely seen without a big cigar firmly planted between his teeth. He also happens to be a very gifted songwriter, performer and author, even if in some circles he's better known for his political punditry.

Kinky Friedman, who has his own line of Kinky Friedman premium cigars, performed at World Café Live in Philadelphia last night to a sold-out crowd. Playing as a trio with longtime band mates, Little Jewford (piano, melodica and vocals) and Washington Ratso (guitar and vocals), the unplugged set coursed somewhat jaggedly between songs, off-the-cuff comedy, and included a chapter reading by Kinky from his latest book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood.

Kinky appropriately set the mood by opening the show with "Before All Hell Breaks Loose." Other songs included, "Nashville Casualty And Life," "Homo Erectus," "Ride 'Em Jewboy," the classic, "Asshole From El Paso," and several covers, which included a stirring rendition of Tom Paxton's "Ramblin' Boy."

Other highlights of the show included solo performances by keyboardist and sidekick, Little Jewford, who played "When The Saints Come Marching In" in several modes, including a boogie-woogie version, a classical version a la Mozart, a "Jewish" version (one must hear it to get it), and even played the song behind his back - a feat I've never seen a keyboard player do. Later in the show, Jewford played Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." Washington Ratso also enjoyed a solo spot, breaking away from the C&W mode for one song, while he deftly flat-picked an Irish jig.

In-between songs there was plenty of patter, including that of Kinky's upcoming run for Texas Governor again, this time as a Democrat. Although politically, Kinky is a self-proclaimed Independent, he said, "I decided to run as a Democrat because I couldn’t get elected as a Republican." For those who don't take him seriously, I can tell you, Kinky is very serious about running, and his love for the people of Texas comes straight from the heart.

On that note, during the last couple of songs, Kinky pulled out one of his 5¾" x 60 Kinky Friedman Governor cigars and pacified himself with it during solos by Ratso and Little Jewford. He ended the show by lighting it up, which took the crowd (and me) by surprise, but I loved it!

Having gotten to know Kinky a little by interviewing him at the IPCPR show in New Orleans this past summer, and at a Famous Smoke Shop in-store appearance earlier this year, it was great to see him in his element, on-stage, where he also seems most comfortable. If you have the chance to see Kinky Friedman on tour, be sure to pick up a ticket; you're in for a really great time. (Pick up some of his cigars, too; they're mighty good.)

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Also appearing at World Café Live last night was a young and talented new bluegrass roots trio called Shotgun Party. The band features songwriter and guitarist/vocalist, Jenny Parrott, Katy Rose Cox on fiddle and vocals (man, the girl can play!), and Andrew Austin-Petersen on bass fiddle. You can learn more about them by visiting the Shotgun Party website.


~ Gary Korb

Above photo: Kinky Friedman (left) holding one of his Kinky Friedman Governor cigars, with two of his fans, and Little Jewford (right).

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