Liner Note Author: Rich Kienzle.
Photographer: Alan Messer.
Classic Clower Power is a two-and-a-half-hour double-CD compilation drawn from Jerry Clower's 28-album catalog for Decca and MCA Records, stretching from the 1970s to the 1990s. As such, it is the most comprehensive best-of ever assembled of Clower's country comedy. MCA Nashville's decision to release a collection so extensive in 2006 is a reflection of Clower's influence on an entire generation of comedians, an influence that could not be more obvious from these discs. One need only turn to the third track on the second CD, "Examples of a Red Neck," to recognize Clower's definitive impact on Jeff Foxworthy, who has made a career out of sentences that begin, "You might be a redneck if.." But if Clower is influential, he is also a distinct comic personality on his own. More than anything, he is an old-fashioned storyteller. This is not a man who needs a punchline every few seconds. He sets up elaborate jokes in the form of stories that illuminate rural Southern life, particularly as lived by the Ledbetter family, who seem to embody all the quirks of a country existence. Nor is Clower a blue comedian. Over the course of 150 minutes, there is never a four-letter word or a sexual situation. Like any comic, Clower has his targets, the most frequent ones being supposedly sophisticated city people. But the joke is just as likely to be on one of his Southern heroes. When he strays into the political realm, he can become fuzzy-minded, however. "The She Coon of Women's Lib" finds him describing his wife's luxurious and lazy life as an argument against women's lib, and he doesn't make much sense. At another point, he declares, "President Clinton hates me," by which he presumably means that, as a wealthy man, he is required to pay income taxes in the highest bracket. He makes the specious argument that this is unfair, since he was born poor, as if tax laws shouldn't apply to self-made men. Again, however, he is just as ready to poke fun at his characters' political views as anything else. "A real Mississippian," he says at one point, "don't even agree now that Richard Nixon ever done anything wrong." But then, as a real Mississippian himself, maybe he's not kidding. ~ William Ruhlmann