David Allan Coe

Friday, December 20, at Peabody's

Gangs of New York
David Allan Coe
David Allan Coe
David Allan Coe has some puckering up to do. "There were 13 kids and a bunch of dogs/A house full of chickens and a yard full of hogs . . . coal burnin' stove, no natural gas/If that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass," Coe sings on his classic, autobiographical anthem "If That Ain't Country."

But the thing is, that really ain't country. At least not anymore. Nowadays, country is as slick and overproduced as most mainstream pop -- from which it's virtually indistinguishable. Thus, for some time now, country outlaws have been relegated to the sidelines of Nashville -- which has only made an old cuss like Coe all the more contentious.

With his three-part harmonies and cut-to-the-bone lyrics, Coe's words sting like the sweat in the eyes of the hard-laboring have-nots he routinely sings about. And though he's cracked the country top 10 but once (with his cover of Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me by Name"), he has penned hits for other songwriters, including chart-toppers for Tammy Wynette and Johnny Paycheck.

Moreover, in the late '90s, Coe saw his career get a boost from incessant name-dropping by hillbilly headbangers like Kid Rock and Pantera -- both of whom Coe eventually recorded with.

But after two decades of relative obscurity, the newfound attention hasn't suited Coe very well. The last time we saw the man perform, he came onstage in a full-length fur coat and actually attempted to rap, which was kind of like watching your grandpa break-dance. It was embarrassing and downright awful, and it certainly sullied Coe's status as the proudly anticommercial alternative to contemporary country. Watching a man compromise himself after so many years of refusing to sell out was painful. With his newly enhanced drawing power, then, we suggest Coe invest in some Chapstick.

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