Sean Rima: A Review of Kinky Friedman’s New Album, “Circus Of Life”.

 

Spent yesterday afternoon doing laundry, sipping Barefoot Merlot, writing poems in my head, and listening to Kinky Friedman’s new record, “Circus of Life,” over and over and over again.

It is a gorgeous work of art, a perfect poem. But it’s not the kind of record you blast from the speakers while rushing down the interstate. This is the kind of record that old Gen-Xers like me used to get a decent buzz on, flop on the floor, listen to on the headphones, and ponder the sweet, dark mysteries¬†of life.

As such, this is a recording that demands multiple listens, for every listen reveals another hidden nuance of my good brother¬†Brian Molnar‘s exquisite production (with Dan Gailey serving as Executive Producer), as well as the more subtle wisdoms and observations of a master lyricist like Kinky Friedman, a dude I am routinely honored to call my friend.

Now, I’m no songwriter or muscian, so it would be silly for me to attempt a review of this work from a strictly musical perspective. But I am a poet, and in this regard, I can tell you that “Circus Of Life” represents some of Kinky’s finest poetry. For me, the stand-outs are “Jesus In Pajamas,” “Circus Of Life,” and, of course, “Me And My Guitar”.

With an economy of words and simple metaphors, “Jesus” transforms the image of a homeless man wandering through a Dennys in Dallas into a perfect description of Christ, sythesizing over 2,000 years of Christian and Jewish theology in a single, simple, tear-jerker of a song.

The title track, “Circus Of Life,” establishes the Big Top theme of the album, a motif The Kinkster has been chasing since “Wild Man From Borneo”. Like “Borneo,” “Circus Of Life” is an exquisite poem about unrequited love, and if you can make it to the final, heartbreaking line without dropping a tear in your beer, you are an object, not a human being. In my opinion, it is also one of the finest songs Kinky Friedman has ever written.

Admittedly, “Me And My Guitar” holds a special place in my heart, as I was lucky and blessed enough to contribute a couple lines of poetry to the lyrics. “Guitar” was also the first new song Kinky worked on after Willie Nelson famously told him to stop watching “Matlock” on TV and start writing again, making it the first original Kinky song in 40 years.

It was a magical night for me, which began while riding with Kinky to the HEB in Kerrville for some chicken and flashlight batteries. Out of the blue, Kinky mentioned that he had a song he was working on, and maybe I could help. Many, many hours later, after countless cigars, Pall Malls, and a fair amount of tequila, we had the basics of the song committed to one of Kinky’s small, wrinkled notebooks. The song itself would continue to evolve over the next two weeks, with the finishing touches being made by Brian Molnar. I think it is a perfect song, and like the best love poems, it describes a lifelong romance in a handful of simple lines and images.

Seriously. No matter who you are or where you’ve been, there is a song in the “Circus of Life” that you’ll swear was written for you.

Wow. Can’t wait for you to hear it.

Available everywhere July 6.

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