Kinky Friedman CIRCUS OF LIFE

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Kinky Friedman
CIRCUS OF LIFE
Echo Hill Records

12 Dark American Folk Songs That Will Break Your Heart and Engage Your Brain.

Kinky Friedman is one of those acts who has been around for ever but never crossing my path until 2015 with the release of The Loneliest Man I Ever Met and a UK Tour to promote it. For a variety of health reasons that year the album became a late night/early morning Godsend; with numerous songs touching my heart in ways very few others could at that delicate time.
But; seeing him live baffled me as I found it difficult to separate the sensitive wordsmith on record with the larger than life showman who held a packed room in the palm of his hand with humorous stories and anecdotes; letting the music only play second fiddle.
Hey ho; that’s all in the past and this brand new record is on my player for the umpteenth time in four weeks and at last…..I get it!
Opening track A Dog Named Freedom could only be written by someone who has lived through a myriad of American administrations since the 1960’s and finally the balance has tipped; with Kinky now comparing the USA’s beloved Freedom to a three legged dog in a song that 50% of the population will love and 50% hate should they ever hear; which is what a good protest song should be surely?
Some songs here are quite simple; Copper Love and Zoey spring to mind, but I’m convinced they have hidden meanings that I haven’t deciphered yet; or perhaps they are just plain and simple love songs……I do hope so.
Others are wonderfully perceptive and when you first hear them will catch you unawares; as Spitfire and Song About You did; both leaving me quite breathless; especially the delightful Spitfire which turns out to be an ode to a WWII pilot sung from the point of view of his lover staring forlornly at the sky from her window.
You didn’t expect that; did you?
Jesus In Pyjamas is as sad a song as you’ll hear this decade, with the Governor of the Heart of Texas revealing a delicate tale of homelessness and mental health problems with incredible sensitivity, while holding your attention with every word and note.
A lot of the press surrounding this album focusses on one particular song; Autographs In The Rain (Song for Willie); a rather jaunty anecdote about The Kinkster’s life long relationship with Willie Nelson. It is a very good song, and certainly sung from the heart; but it’s far from the best song here.
That title could go to any one of three; which are all songs any of the great American Folk Singers (inc. His Bobness) would have been proud to have written; first choice could be Back To Grace; sung in a Leonard Cohen style murmur; with a feint harmonica in the background to add even extra pathos on a stunning love story that will bring tears to a glass eye.
Another choice could be the title track Circus of Life; another very dark love song that shows what a Master Storyteller and songwriter Friedman is when he sets his mind to it. Softly sung and including a harmonica, accordion and mandolin as well as some neatly strummed guitar from Joe Cirotti, this is the type of song that wins Awards.
Just to be contrary I’m choosing Me & My Guitar as the RMHQ Favourite Song; it’s another comparatively simple Folk Song; but deceptively so as it takes a rare talent to make something this beautiful and profound sound so simple; and Kinky Friedman does it with such ease.
First and foremost Kinky Friedman is a Folk Singer in the long tradition of Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs and mostly Tom Paxton; dissecting life around him with a scalpel and reassembling it all to create a bunch of very insightful and eloquent songs that will pull and squeeze your heartstrings while also stimulating your brain.
When I first played The Loneliest Man I Ever Met in 2015 it felt like a mighty punch to the jaw; making me see stars and my knees wobble until I fell to the canvass, out for the count in Round #1. This album hasn’t been quite so immediate; but Kinky’s had me on the ropes for twelve long rounds now, with hits to the head, the heart and the gut leaving me exhausted but elated knowing that the Texas Champion still has what it takes to be a Champion in a world full of young pretenders.

Released June 6th 2018
https://kinkyfriedman.com/

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