Various Artists

Why the Hell Not... The Songs of Kinky Friedman (Sustain Records)

Just as Kinky Friedman the political candidate is often dismissed as a one-liner dispensing novelty, Kinky Friedman the songwriter is usually summarized as a humorist, remembered for such memorable song titles like "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven (and Your Buns in the Bed)" and his signature song "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore."

But if Friedman were merely a pot-stirring satirist, it's doubtful his appeal would have lasted much longer than the mood-ring and pet rock fads of his '70s heyday. This collection proves just how many of his songs aim for the heart and mind along with the funny-bone. Unfortunately, that purpose undercuts any use the album might have had for reinvigorating envelope-licking campaign volunteers, as sentimental ballads are favored over the faster tracks.

Buried six tracks deep is the strongest track, Todd Snider's rollicking version of "Jews Like Jesus," with verse two altered to describe some crazy alternative future in which the racist antagonist complains about the Semitic ethnicity of the current governor. Willie Nelson gives another strong performance, pledging his allegiance to God's chosen people over a traditional country take of "Ride 'Em Jewboy," complete with equestrian clip-clop percussion and campfire harmonica.

The album proves its point to the uninitiated. But a few noticeable absences (no "Asshole From El Paso"?) and boring performances, like Delbert McClinton's generic roots-rock take on "Autograph," make this record nothing more than a half-assed show of support by Friedman's confreres.

 
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