Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lee Hazlewood

  • Cowboy in Sweden [Smells Like, 1999] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cowboy in Sweden [Smells Like, 1999]
Hazlewood is an "interesting" figure, always was. A natural hipster, in the biz but not of it, pop and rock and country and just plain weird--Duane Eddy, Nancy Sinatra, and Gram Parsons is quite a trifecta. Problem is he'snever been all that good. There's a nice best-of hiding in his collected works, including the new standards collection. But his vogue transcends crass track-by-track quality controls, combining the usual convolutional one-upsmanship, a visceral distaste for roots-rock's sonic canon, and a generation of aging slackers' discovery that doing bizness needn't deaden your mind or rot your soul. If slick blues licks make you sick, Hazlewood's studio hacks and string-section dreck will be some kind of change. If you like Nancy Sinatra almost as much as Karen Carpenter, thin-piped Nina Lizell will clean away enough Janis-and-Bonnie grit. If you doubt all shows of soul, the flaccid sentimentality of "Easy and Me" will be one more trope as far as you're concerned. But without opening a book I can recall half a dozen unreissued singer-songwriter albums that do more with their varied conventions than this Europe-only 1970 rarity--by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, Nolan Porter, Marc Benno, Hirth Martinez, Alice Stuart, Mississippi Charles Bevel. And I shudder to think of the unreasonable claims to be made when their time comes around again. B-