CD Reissue Review: David Allan Coe – Texas Moon (Plantation/Real Gone, 1977/2013)
There may never have been as iconoclastic a country artist as David Allan Coe. Though his rejection of Nashville norms drew parallels with the outlaw movement, he always seemed a notch wilder and less predictable than Waylon, Willie and the boys. Reared largely in reform schools and prisons through his late-20s, his bluesy 1969 debut, Penitentiary Blues, didn’t predict his turn to country, but certainly showed off the outspoken songwriting that would sustain his career. At turns, Coe was a rebel, a rhinestone suited cowboy, a biker and a successful Nashville songwriter. After a pair of albums for Shelby Singleton’s indie SSS label, Coe hooked up with a rock band for a couple of years, wrote a chart-topping hit for Tanya Tucker, and signed with Columbia in 1974.
This 1977 release on Shelby’s Plantation label appears to have been recorded in 1973, on the eve of the songwriting revolution fueled in large part by Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver and Guy Clark. All three are represented (Kristofferson with “Why Me,” Shaver with “Ride Me Down Easy” and Clark with “That Old Time Feeling”), along with Mickey Newbury (“Why You Been Gone So Long”) and Jackson Browne (“These Days”). Coe finds a deep resonance with these then-contemporary songs, but the way he pulls older selections into his universe is even more impressive. He converts John Greer’s early-50s “Got You on My Mind” from R&B to country-soul and turns Johnny Cash’s Sun-era tragedy “Give My Love to Rose” into a mournful ’70s ballad.
Coe wrote only two of the songs here, the sympathetic “Mary Magdeline” and the prescient “Fuzzy Was an Outlaw.” Both exhibit the sort of blunt honesty that would become his trademark. By the time this album was released in ’77, Coe had charted “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” “Longhaired Redneck,” and “Willie, Wayon and Me,” but Texas Moon drew little public notice and has been left unreissued on CD until now. Real Gone’s reissue includes a 12-panel insert with new liner notes by Chris Morris, and original front and back cover art. The latter includes vintage mug shots and a list of Coe’s incarcerations. This isn’t the place to start a David Allan Coe collection, but it’s a missing chapter that the singer-songwriter’s many fans will enjoy having available again.