Personnel includes: David Allan Coe (vocals); Terry Fox (guitar, banjo, mandolin); Tyler Coe (guitar); Steve Bishop (bass); Kerry Brown (drums).
Recorded in Texas.
Say whatever the hell you want about David Allan Coe, but he's one of a kind as a singer, songwriter, and performer. In his early sixties, Coe hasn't slowed a bit and is experiencing another of his periodic renaissances as an artist and live act. Live at Billy Bob's Texas is R-rated Coe -- unlike the "Mature Audiences Only" tag on Live at the Iron Horse -- and the performance is tight, full-on badass country-rock with a band that rivals any but the Allman Brothers (including his pal Kid Rock's). Who knows how long this show really was, as most of the audience monologues have been omitted, but who gives a damn when it's as fine as this? There are 20 tracks here, from virtually every period in his career, performed with white-hot intensity, grease, profanity, and a burning, brokenhearted passion. The set kicks off with the gorgeous "Ain't That the Way (Love's Supposed to Be)," with Kim Hastings on duet and backup vocals, one of Coe's more poignant and edifying love songs, and shifts into medium gear on "Talkin' to the Blues" before kicking into full-rock ass-kicking glory with "Son of the South" and "'59 Cadillac, '57 Chevy." Both tracks are complete with screaming leads by Terry Fox and popping, cut-time basslines by Steven Bishop. Coe's son Tyler plays a very solid rhythm guitar and acts as bandleader. The pace varies and moves between thunderous, redneck-biker country-rock and the honky tonk tunes with beautiful acoustic ballads like "Heaven Only Knows" tossed in. The entire show is seamless in its quality, but some moments, such as the Hastings/Coe duet on the Jessi Colter classic "Storms Never Last," are so moving they ask more questions than they answer. For those concerned, the "hits" are here -- "Take This Job and Shove It," "Drank My Wife Away," and updated versions of "Longhaired Redneck," "If That Country," and "The Ride" -- and they are played with more inspiration than they ought to be given how often they've been performed, even with the new twists and turns (like a faux-hardcore ending on the otherwise straight honky tonk of "Take This Job and Shove It"). But it's on the dirty funk of "Free My Mind" with its attempt at hip-hop that Coe is really in his element. He likes to mess with the form of country music with excessive word-mongering and boasting, such as: "You know I don't shoot dope but I might shoot my gun/I don't like acid rock but I might be trippin'." Immediately after, he slides into a stunning cover of "Follow Me," where sweet Saturday-night country music meets Jimmy Buffett's Volcano-era rhythm section. The album closes with the Steve Goodman/John Prine classic "You Never Even Called Me by My Name," that Coe has made his signature tune. Rather than the slow, forlorn version on his own recordings, this version is pure Jerry Jeff Walker honky tonk -- who may have gotten his honky tonk style from Coe in the first place. Hastings adds so much to Coe's still-excellent baritone that the crowd is swept up in the raw country swing of the tune, until he adds a hip-hop coda and they all laugh like hell -- you will, too. Coe hasn't gone anywhere; he's still crazy, vulgar, literate, passionate, and simultaneously awesome and frightening. Just get it. [The CD was also released with a bonus DVD of the show.] ~ Thom Jurek