It probably doesn’t matter to anyone if the rumors surrounding David Allan Coe are true, except for the country singer himself. If each of those yarns–everything from living outside the Grand Ole Opry to being holed up in a cave without a proper place to call home to accusations of racism—is true, it only makes the man’s on-stage persona that much more three-dimensional. Of course, positioning oneself as a country-music tent post, while simultaneously being an outsider and an Ohio native seems like an odd backstory. But Coe’s been singing with a Southern accent for the better part of the last forty years. So, at least he’s convinced himself. Spitting out a handful of rapid-fire albums beginning in the late sixties, but only hitting it big after a few other folks took his compositions to the charts, Coe’s assimilated a wide range of influences. “Once Upon a Rhyme,” one of his 1974 albums, actually sounds like a litany of appropriated songs—Dylan, maybe some poppier country fare and a bit of Johnny Cash. That might just be the trappings of country and its restrictive tropes, since Coe’s actually been capable of turning in emotionally varied work throughout his career. A pair of independently released, adult-themed discs issued between 1978 and 1982 don’t aptly represent the singer, but helped solidify Coe’s outlaw image. Instead, “The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy,” another one of Coe’s 1974 releases, is a collection of softer sounding tunes. Lyrically, there’s not a huge distinction to be made between this and his other major label efforts. But here Coe details splitting town and ditching relationships in relatively sedate terms, “Bossier City” being a particularly effective composition. His upcoming appearance at a Chicago rock venue, though, should be enough to properly explain the singer’s relationship to American music—and his unruly fanbase. (Dave Cantor)
April 12 at Reggies Rock Club, 2109 South State, (312)949-0121, 7:30pm. $20-$25. 17+.