(2014) Live At The Alabama Women's Prison, Plus

Mack Vickery

... read moreSome greaseballs are too sleazy even for the lowlife, which may just explain why Mack Vickery is so unknown to even roots music fanatics. A rockabilly cat who turned to country as the '60s rolled on, Vickery wrote Jerry Lee Lewis' staggeringly vulgar "Meat Man" and Johnny Paycheck's seemingly...

38′:58″ 14 Songs

1
Mack Vickery
Life Turned Her That Way
2:47
2
Mack Vickery
A Woman Who Walks On The Wild Side
2:44
3
Mack Vickery
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
2:36
4
Mack Vickery
Down At John Wayne's Ranch-Medley
7:46
5
Mack Vickery
Alabama Women's Prison Blues
2:21
6
Mack Vickery
The Purse
2:42
7
Mack Vickery
Games People Play
2:15
8
Mack Vickery
As Usual
2:56
9
Mack Vickery
Jesus, Don't Give Up On Me
1:24
10
Mack Vickery
He Got The Whole World
1:56
11
Mack Vickery
Old Time Religion
1:19
12
Mack Vickery
Meat Man
2:44
13
Mack Vickery
The Farther I Let Her Go
2:34
14
Mack Vickery
Boston's Busiest Peeping Tom
2:54
Released 06 June 2014, ℗ Bear Family Records GmbH

Review

Some greaseballs are too sleazy even for the lowlife, which may just explain why Mack Vickery is so unknown to even roots music fanatics. A rockabilly cat who turned to country as the '60s rolled on, Vickery wrote Jerry Lee Lewis' staggeringly vulgar "Meat Man" and Johnny Paycheck's seemingly autobiographical "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)," but he also had a performing career, releasing several singles that went nowhere but are prized by crazed rockabilly collectors. Unquestionably the highlight of his recording career is Live at the Alabama Women's Prison, the only record to feel as genuinely cheap, tacky, and tawdry as an exploitation movie playing endlessly at drive-ins and grindhouses in the early '70s. Like those B-movies, Live at the Alabama Women's Prison is a shameless knock-off of a hit, as Vickery decided to cut an album in a prison after Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison turned into smash. For whatever reason, Vickery chose the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, AB, sweet-talked the warden into the project, worked hard to get the go-ahead to actually record in an facility where -- according to the liner notes by L-P Anderson and Colin Escott in the 2008 Bear Family reissue of this long-forgotten record -- 80-percent of the inmates were convicted of killing a two-timing lover. Like Cash at Folsom, Vickery picked tunes that would resonate with the prisoners...which meant that he burst onto the stage singing Harlan Howard's "Life Turned Her That Way" as if he was Elvis while also borrowing Joe South's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" from the King, then he penned a tune called "A Woman Who Walks on the Wild Side" that sat comfortably next to his other originals "Alabama Women's Prison Blues" and "The Purse," then steering his flock into redemption via a handful of gospel tunes at the end of the set. Tackling "He Got the Whole World" and "Old Time Religion" hardly redeems the insanity that precedes it, as Vickery goes out of his way to get his audience all hot and bothered, strutting like Elvis, working a greasy boogie like Tony Joe White, swaggering with a John Wayne impression, and singing as if he was Porky Pig singing as if he was Mel Tillis. It's probably a reflection of how starved for entertainment and attention the women of Julia Tutwiler Prison were that they go absolutely nuts for this bizarro blend, and a lot of the fun of Live at the Alabama Women's Prison is hearing the frenzied crowd, screaming every time Vickery twitches and singing along to the chorus. As music, this is merely pretty good turn of the '60s roots rock -- echoes of Tony Joe, Elvis, Charlie Rich abound -- but as an experience, this thing is extraordinary, capturing a country con man in front of perhaps his ideal audience. It's a one of a kind record -- there's never been anything like it and never will be again. Bear Family's 2008 reissue sweetens the deal by adding both sides of Mack Vickery's 1970 single "Meat Man"/"The Farther I Let Her Go," which was released under the name Atlanta Jones (partially because he was sick of having his name misspelled) and find Vickery a bit more cleaned up than he is on the LP, but not by much. Also added as an unbilled bonus track is the amazing "Boston's Busiest Peeping Tom," the scrapped B-side to "Meat Man" which isn't nearly as dirty as its title -- Mack is peeking into every bar in Boston, trying to find his girl -- but would have been the ideal flip to the very nasty "Meat Man." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine