[Lee Hazlewood passed away on August 4th at the age of 78. A fond farewell to the man who re-invented cowboy cool…]
Almost every rocker wants to be seen as a rebel, but Lee Hazlewood was the real deal. He rebelled against the music industry, against stuffed shirts, and finally, against his own success. His psychedelic cowboy crooning, lush musical arrangements, and ‘aw shucks’ lyrical brilliance denied easy categorization and made him, musically, a man without a country. With a slow drawl and a quick wit, Hazlewood sang like a real-life cowboy – weaving in and out of the melody, his voice rich in character and seemingly shaped by a lifetime of bourbon and hell-raising. Every song Hazlewood recorded was tailored to that voice, rather than the other way around.
Best known for his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra in the late 60’s, Hazlewood carved out his own unique niche in the world of music. Never fully embraced by the established Nashville country scene, he was just starting to gain wider acclaim when he up and moved to Sweden in the early 70’s. He would live there for the rest of the decade, sporadically releasing albums that were as good as any in his iconoclastic career. That move was a microcosm of his career: undercutting a chance at mainstream success in favor of following his fun-loving muse down a dirty side street.
This two-for-one disc collects a pair of albums he released while in self-imposed European exile: 1973’s Poet, Fool Or Bum, and 1977’s Back On The Street Again. Like most of his non-Nancy Sinatra-related records, these albums were panned on release and have only recently begun to find their audience. In fact, Hazlewood’s back catalogue is selling in unprecendented numbers these days. It seems Lee understood something that the indie kids are just catching onto: if you’re going to package yourself, it’s best to act like you’re not selling a damned thing.
Listen: The Performer