Much as we fondly recall Charles Shaar Murray’s legendary one-word review of Lee Hazlewood’s Poet, Fool Or Bum LP (“Bum”), the fact is that some of us spontaneously genuflect whenever Hazlewood’s name is mentioned. It’s debatable whether country music ever wanted a renaissance man, but it bloody well had one in the shape of this nonconformist producer, composer, vocalist and pioneer of country-psych – or hippiebilly, if you prefer. Hazlewood wisely rode himself out of town on a rail, all the way to Sweden, before any redneck posse could catch him.
The LHI Years – Lee Hazlewood Industries – adroitly cherry-picks his output for the label, bringing us the marvellously wrong-headed après-Nancy Sinatra duets Leather And Lace with Nina Lizell, Califia (Stone Rider) with Suzi Jane Hokom and the Ann-Margaret collaborations Chico, Victims Of The Night and Sleep In The Grass. Then there are the bereft psychosexual bulletins The Bed and The Night Before, delivered in a coffin-creak baritone: he was also the cowboy Serge Gainsbourg.
If there’s a fine line between kitsch and magnificence, Hazlewood lay down right on top of it, kicked his boots off and confounded everyone. As the man himself says: “You hang around me and I’ll undo your mind.” You’re on, bud.