For a guy whose inflated reputation as a racist redneck has helped to mischaracterize his work over the past 35 years, the long-overdue reissue of Penitentiary Bluesmay help David Allan Coe slough off some the more cartoonish preconceptions about his musicianship. Sure, anyone who writes a song titled "Nigger Fucker" is not a graduate of sensitivity training, but, likewise, anyone who shared jail time with Screamin' Jay Hawkins and stage time with B.B. King probably isn't a cross-burner, either. Similarly, the man responsible for the haunting and emotional blues on this album (Coe's 1969 debut) is clearly someone capable of a range of expression. That Coe's career started with him singing gut-wrenching blues like "Funeral Parlor Blues" and reworking "Alligator Wine" into some weird-ass shit like "Monkey David Wine" just shows that he, of all people, understands the real roots of country music.
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