David Allan Coe

Remember when male country stars were -- at least ostensibly -- dangerous dudes? Back when Cash was singing about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, ex-con Merle Haggard was warning people about his fightin' side, and Waylon rumbled in that whiskey-cocaine baritone that he could get "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean"? George Jones, Hank Jr….the list goes on. Hell, even avuncular old coots like Tennessee Ernie Ford claimed to have metal fists. But look at country stars today.

Try to imagine Keith Urban or Brad Paisley or those weenies from Lonestar and/or Rascal Flatts chirping about how they're gonna kick somebody's ass. They couldn't pull it off, even if it occurred to them to try, but in the meantime they're too busy chirping about sippy-cups, hot tubs and what great suburban daddies and husbands they are. Sure, they may get debauched and knock back three or four Coors Lights with the guys once in a while, but they'll bring you flowers when they stagger in ten minutes late for din-din. No wonder so many rural and suburban white kids, especially guys, are jamming 50 Cent and Slim Thug these days. Who wants to stare domestic incarcera-, er, bliss in the face when he's all of 17?

What country music needs is a few more young guys like elder statesman David Allan Coe, one of the last of the last dangerous men in C&W. A couple of weeks ago, rerelease specialists Shout! Factory dusted off Penitentiary Blues, the 30-years-out-of-print debut Coe penned while in the joint in the early 1970s. Songs like the rave-up "Cell No. 33," the hilarious "Death Row," the laconic Jimmy Reed-style "Oh Warden" and the intensely bluesy title track (which features lines like "All that marijuana / sellin' cocaine / now they're takin' blood tests / from my heroin veins") blaze with hard-won authenticity. Hell, this special edition even comes with an extra feature Snoop Dogg probably wishes he had thought of first: a 20-page Coe-penned pamphlet called "How to Pull Time (And Parole)". "When some guy puts his hands on you," Coe writes, "then you should do everything in your power TO KNOCK HIS FUCKING BRAINS OUT."

Even though the expletive is prudishly crossed out in the notes, that's still pretty damn gangsta.

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