In concert: David Allan Coe at Cancun Cantina
He did hard time. His songs are loaded with braggadocio, self-references, explicit sex and profanity - sometimes even the N-word.
Is he the latest hip-hop phenom?
Nope: It's the legendary-slash-notorious country outlaw David Allan Coe. Coe, 71, was once signed to the storied Sun Records. He was best pals with Waylon Jennings. He wrote the classic "Take This Job and Shove It," made famous by Johnny Paycheck, and carpentered material for the likes of George Jones, Johnny Cash and Tanya Tucker. He scored hits in his own right ("You Never Even Called Me By My Name," "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile" and others).
So what was someone with his resume doing Thursday night with a sloppy, bass guitar-less bar band at Cancun Cantina near Baltimore-Washington International Airport?
The answer has to do in part with financial mismanagement. The rights to "Take This Job and Shove It"? He sold those in bankruptcy proceedings - and, cruel irony, receives no paycheck for it. But more than that, Coe's marginal existence owes to one of the most successful campaigns of self-sabotage in the history of country music. In the late 1970s and early-'80s, Coe released a pair of albums full of X-rated humor and race bait.
Ever since - and despite efforts by Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker and Howard Stern to nurse him back into the mainstream - Nashville more or less won't touch him with a ten-foot pole. Coe, battling obesity and planted firmly on a stool for nearly two hours Thursday, is half-apologetic, half-defiant. Sure, he's no choirboy - but he maintains the politically correct crowd should lighten up and forgive an old man.
Most of the set was devoted, sometimes in speedy medley style, to his best and most beloved cuts: among them "Longhaired Redneck," "The Ride, "If That Ain't Country" and "Please Come to Boston."
On these, Coe hardly needed the noise of a backing band; his voice was as rich and authoritative as that of the late Jennings and Cash. Yet he couldn't resist throwing in the dirty ditty about porn star Linda Lovelace, and then the radioactive, unprintable song that, Coe explained, was inspired by a fantasy of racist Alabaman George Wallace being cuckolded by a black man.
But in its actual lyrics, the song has no trace of schadenfreude - and when those on the wooden dancefloor sang and laughed along, the joke seemed to be taken all too literally.
If there are those who still don't "get it," Coe told us where we could shove it.
| February 11, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
Categories: In concert | Tags: David Allan Coe
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