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Kinky Friedman: A Legacy of Laughter and Lyrics

To say that Kinky Friedman was a multi-life figure who was famous for his quick wit and bold Texas chutzpah is an understatement, but it is where we will begin.

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A unique voice has been lost to the country music and literature worlds. On June 26, 2024, at the age of 79½, the cigar-chomping, irreverent troubadour, and author Richard Samet “Kinky” Friedman passed away. To say that Kinky Friedman was a multi-life figure who was famous for his quick wit and bold Texas chutzpah is an understatement, but it is where we will begin.

The Friedman family relocated from Chicago to Houston not long after Friedman’s 1944 birth to run Echo Hill Ranch, a summer camp that Kinky would call home for the rest of his life. He had an innate curiosity for the unknown and a thirst for adventure throughout his youth. He went to University of Texas at Austin to study psychology, then joined the Peace Corps and went to Borneo, where he had an experience that would change his perspective on life and his art.

After forming Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys in Nashville in the early 1970s, Friedman’s music career took off. Many have likened his band—a country group with a social conscience—to the twisted offspring of Bob Wills and Lenny Bruce. His fearless and innovative 1973 album “Sold American” cemented his reputation as an outlaw country artist.

He championed irreverence and lampooned Southern small-mindedness in his daring and sarcastic songs. Also, they mirrored the man’s complicated character; they were amazing. Fans and fellow musicians alike were won over by Kinky’s music for its combination of heart and comedy. Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan were among his closest companions, and he was a friend of presidents and icons as well as a composer par excellence.

“Musicians can run this state better than politicians. We won’t get a lot done in the mornings, but we’ll work late and be honest.”

Kinky was talented in more than just music, though. He contributed to Texas Monthly as a columnist and wrote detective novels in his spare time. His political career was just as eventful as his musical and literary ones. With his eccentric and funny campaign slogans, he captured the interest of many in 2006 when he conducted a longshot campaign for governor of Texas, with the campaign slogan “Why The Hell Not?”

For all the people whose lives Kinky Friedman impacted, his loss is a cause for contemplation. Not only will his music and writings live on, but so will the joy he spread via his infectious sense of humor. Despite experiencing immense suffering and grievance in recent years, his wit and determination persisted right up until the end.

We honour Kinky Friedman’s lasting impact on country music, literature, and the lives of his fans and acquaintances even as we grieve his passing. People will keep reading his books, singing his songs, and cherishing his memories. According to his close friend Kent Perkins, “in a peaceful corner of paradise there is a large, comfortable chair, a well-lit floor lamp, a collection of biographies, and a couple of elderly dogs tail-wagging to the subtle aroma of cigar smoke”.

The world lost some of its vibrancy when Kinky Friedman trod on a rainbow. His uniqueness and the joy he brought to others via his music will live on in the hearts of listeners for years to come.

The life of Kinky Friedman was a vibrant tapestry adorned with melodies, lyrics, and an unwavering zeal for living. While we say our goodbyes to the Kinkster, may his legacy continue on throughout country music and beyond via the songs and recollections that we cherish.

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“Passage Du Desir” – Johnny Blue Skies

Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow us to introduce Johnny Blue Skies, the new incarnation of iconic Nashville renegade Sturgill Simpson, and his new album “Passage Du Desir”

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Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow us to introduce Johnny Blue Skies, the new incarnation of iconic Nashville renegade Sturgill Simpson, and his new album “Passage Du Desir”. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London and Clement House Recording Studio in Nashville, the album signifies the start of a new chapter for the artist, who had previously committed to releasing just five studio albums under the moniker Sturgill Simpson. 

From the very first listen, this new album, the first by Simpson in three years, is once again an intriguing exploration of metamodern melancholy, reminiscent of an early Roy Orbison.

Johnny Blue Skies takes us through grief, previous setbacks, and unreachable ambitions from the moment the pen meets paper on this album. Listeners are left feeling raw, perhaps even vulnerable by the artists intense honesty. As sorrow flows like the Canal Saint-Martin, he presses for admission on “Right Kind of Dream,” using his sublime vocal talents like never before, making this among his most captivating recordings to date thanks to his understanding and abilities of how to use his vocals to convey modern sensitivities.

“You can turn the page or you can light the book on fire and dance around the flames. You can try to live above hell or you can just go raise some. Here’s to clean livin’ and dirty thinking.”

Using a layered effect, Johnny Blue Skies evokes a cosmic remoteness with his softer, exposed voice. As if trying to escape the immense pain, he sounds to be physically detaching himself from it. “One for the Road” transitions from symphonic country-rock to guitars sobbing during the course of its nearly nine-minute breakup song. Think Jim Steinman, but instead of his symphonic power ballads with an operatic rock singer from Texas, his muse would be Johnny Blue Skies, complete with strings and a retro country feel, straight out of Studio B at RCA circa 1978.

His more powerful moments, like the chorus of “Jupiter’s Faerie,” bring out his voice’s imperfections and add depth to the album in the same movement, before “If the Sun Never Rises Again” is chilled rock meets blue-eyed soul allowing us time to rest and reflect before moving on deeper into “Passage Du Desir”.

The album is peppered with rich and lively background music that complements Johnny Blue Skies singing, with his cosmic metamodern theme continuing to feature through songs like   “Mint Tea”, which is inviting and euphoric country music for listeners old and new, while the albums opening track, “Swamp of Sadness,” sets the tone, with haunting accordion melodies and Simpson’s vulnerable vocals. 

Even though it’s not officially an album by Sturgill Simpson, “Passage Du Desir” showcases Simpson’s talent while performing as Johnny Blue Skies. Seemingly heralding a new beginning and a return to metamodern country sounds, his music has taken an alternate trajectory recently, and we as listeners are richer and rewarded by it.

“Passage Du Desir” takes its cue from Johnny Blue Skies and invites listeners to explore the depths of despair, to the point where the album is so good, the sorrow and despair can’t help but be replaced by the unique joy and elation that music can bring. This record will take you on an emotional journey through the complex web of desire and need, regardless of whether you are a complete novice or a lifelong fan. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Johnny Blue Skies has arrived and the world of country music may never be the same again.

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Minor Gold Release Soulful “Over You”

Minor Gold’s “Over You,” is a country ballad in the manner of the 1970s that is dripping with the melancholy of reminiscing about a love that was once.

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The musical chemistry between Dan Parsons (AUS) and Tracy McNeil (CAN), two award-winning and ARIA-nominated songwriters, gives rise to Minor Gold, a formidable Americana/folk duet. Their latest single, “Over You,” is a country ballad in the manner of the 1970s that is dripping with the melancholy of reminiscing about a love that was once.

Minor Gold have been moving about like clockwork since August 2023, when they released their critically praised self-titled debut album. In little over a year, Minor Gold have done it all: supported The Teskey Brothers in the US and Canada, showcased at Folk Alliance International and AmericanaFEST, and are now on their second U.S. national tour, which includes a stop at the Mile of Music Festival in Appleton, WI. Oh, and they have also toured Australia twice!

The duo has been working on their sophomore album for the past five days in Los Angeles with producer Dan Horne (Mapache, Circles Around the Sun, Cass McCombs), but this new single isn’t original material—it’s a cover of a song by Tracy McNeil’s father, the late singer-songwriter Wayne McNeil.

“Over You always felt like an undiscovered classic…Dad was such a great songwriter but just never had the chance to bring his songs to the world. It’s an honour to now have our own version and I know he would be smiling somewhere.” Tracy McNeil

Without overly complex instrumentation, Dan Parsons’s production faithfully captures the honesty and simplicity of the original song, which is filled with lonely grief and yearning. Featuring pedal steel and drums from ex-pat Australian singer-songwriter Chris Altmann and third part harmony from Tracy’s brother Logan McNeil, a musician and visual artist, the session took place at Catherine Studios in Hamilton, Ontario, and was a true family affair.

The incredible talent of Parsons as lead vocalist is a tribute to the transformative power of music; his rendition captures the essence and golden tone of Wayne’s voice while yet being uniquely Parsons.

The official music video aims to reflect the nostalgia of remembering a great love, and the heartache that still lingers when you just can’t move on. Filmed tag-team style by Parsons and McNeil, who worked to capture each other in raw, simple performances, they made meaningful use of various familiar old haunts in Tracy’s hometown of Port Colborne Ontario.

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“The Light, The Beautiful Liar” – Riley Catherall

An album of moonlit tapestry spun from strands of love, loss, and meditation, “The Light, The Beautiful Liar,” is Riley Catherall’s sophomore offering. Catherall takes listeners on a journey through the dark recesses of his soul with every song, where the echoes of love lost echo through the night.

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An album of moonlit tapestry spun from strands of love, loss, and meditation, “The Light, The Beautiful Liar,” is Riley Catherall’s sophomore offering. Catherall takes listeners on a journey through the dark recesses of his soul with every song, where the echoes of love lost echo through the night.

Catherall’s songwriting is a delicate interplay between openness and lyrical expression. Under a starry sky, his songs sound like secret confessions. In the song “Bark At The Moon,” he sings, “The night dies with the dawn here, a new day breaks on the pavement, and I haven’t changed enough. I’m a broke down believer.” All the pain of yearning is captured in these lines—the frantic hope that the night will somehow provide answers.

Light and sorrow are themes that Catherall returns to throughout the record. A love that flourishes under the moonlight but withers away in the light of day is shown vividly in “Coming Down, Coming Over”, whilst the songs reference to the albums title in its lyrics encapsulates the ambivalent charm of deceit, illustrating how love may assume the form of truth until the break of morning exposes its flimsy facade. The vulnerability of love, how it often crumbles in the light of day, is captured in his singing, with a voice that stays, leaving a trail of yearning.

Catherall creates an evocative sonic environment in tandem with producer Damian Cafarella, reflecting the ideas explored throughout the record. An intimate yet vast audio canvas is created by the production’s combination of acoustic warmth and electronic edges. Imagine two friends being on a moonlit hill, surveying a wide emotional landscape whilst sharing a cigarette, a bottle of red wine and a blanket around your shoulders. That’s how it feels.

An example of this equilibrium between producer and artist is “South Of Somewhere”. The sweeping melody on the electric guitar makes one think of interstate highways and hidden partnerships. Every note rings true because of Cafarella’s touch and fused with Catherall’s sublime vocals. The song’s tempo, which ranges from calm to fast, leads us through the maze of the night.

You should listen to “The Light, The Beautiful Liar” while you’re alone. It’s the perfect background music for moonlit strolls, hidden whispers, driving in the rain and times when you are trying to understand the inexplicable pain of love. As Catherall’s whispered vocals lull us into slumber, we are transported to a world where stars and memories dance together and the soul battles its own demons.

As the last chords die out, a paradox remains: the allure of deceit, the light that shows and conceals. Maybe that’s when we connect with the night’s secrets, our own beautiful liars, and the lovers we’ve lost, and if you let “The Light, The Beautiful Liar” be your guide, you won’t be alone.

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