Shocking the blues with "Mean" Gene Kelton.
Shocking the blues with "Mean" Gene Kelton.

Local Rotation

"Mean" Gene Kelton

Most Requested

Avatar Records

You've heard of shock rock, shock art and shock radio, right? But shock blues? Try to imagine a Southern Howard Stern, wringing solos from a Telecaster over a deep groove, growling, "My baby don't wear no panties / Ask me how I know," to which his raucous ensemble dutifully chants back, "How do you know?" The Southern Stern quickly coughs up the punch line: "Says she likes that natural feeling / And she knows it turns me on."

That's just one of many salacious songs on Most Requested, "Mean" Gene Kelton's latest disc. A longtime presence on the local bar-band circuit, Kelton has crafted a 60-minute-plus set of 15 originals. Most could be categorized as novelty songs: They get your attention on first listen but, like a corny joke, grow tiresome after repeated exposures. And while none of the other tunes have received the same hype as "My Baby Don't Wear No Panties" (a favorite on a couple of local radio stations), rest assured there is plenty more smut where that came from.

Consider the simultaneously silly and witty "My Blow Up Lover," a narrative piece that features harmonica licks and acoustic rhythm guitar in a folkie shuffle. Kelton's persona extols the wonders of "the latest thing in a mail-order bride" and bilingually cracks wise about his love-at-first-sight epiphany: "The instruction book was written in French / It said, 'Ah, mon ami, 32 pounds per square inch' / So I huffed and I puffed till she was busting at the seams / Voil$agrave;! Magnifique! Le girl of my dreams!"

The electric rocker "Let Me Pump Your Gas," which recycles a well-worn Doobie Brothers riff, is mainly an exercise in double entendre. Here's a sample lyric: "If you need a fill-up or a quickie oil change / I've got a super service station built for the fast lane."

But nothing on the disc tops "The Texas City Dyke" for offensive sexual humor and political incorrectness. Obviously inspired by the name of the rock dike near Texas City -- and Kelton's inability to resist a ready pun -- this C&W sing-along is a brutally mocking caricature of a lesbian roughneck: "She's got tattoos on her titties," Kelton sings, "And calluses on her hands / She's a little bit of both / And not enough of neither / But you'd swear she was a man." The title character ultimately pummels a male antagonist during an ice-house fight and steals his wife. The song concludes with the vulgar warning: "Don't you piss off a bitch in heat / When it's the Texas City Dyke."

"I wrote those songs just for the fun of shocking an unresponsive barroom audience on slow nights," Kelton has said. "It always works." Maybe so, depending on which audience, which bar. And if you frequent the same kind of nightspots, you'll probably get this CD. But overall, the numerous crude and lewd numbers overshadow the social commentary of "serious" cuts such as "Too White to Play the Blues." No question, Kelton knows how to make deliciously gritty blues music and write extensive lyrics. Question: Do you want to hear what he has to say?


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