“That’s the one my shrink, Willie Nelson, inspired,” says singer, songwriter and sometime-politician Kinky Friedman when asked about his new album, “Circle of Life.” “He called me one night last year — it was 3 o’clock in the morning. Willie said, ‘What are you doing, Kinky?’ And I said, ‘I’m watching Matlock.’ Willie said, ‘That’s a sure sign of depression. Turn Matlock off — turn Matlock off, Kinky, and start writing!’
“For a number of reasons, that really inspired me.”
Friedman started writing.
The result is the follow-up to 2015’s contemplative “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met,” which contained just three originals, as well as covers of songs by Tom Waits, Warren Zevon and Merle Haggard, among others.
“On the new album, I wrote 12 songs that have been percolating in my life for decades, I guess,” Friedman says during a phone interview. “I don’t know how to describe them except to say that they are very different from my previous work.
“And it’s arguably my best stuff.”
The album includes “Autographs in the Rain,” a heartfelt tribute to Nelson, a longtime friend and mentor.
For the uninitiated, Friedman is a deeply eccentric figure within the musical industry, a self-described “Texas Jewboy” who has penned such salty country-rock fare as “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “A** Hole from El Paso.” He lives on a sprawling ranch 90 minutes from San Antonio. “I’m known as the governor of the heart of Texas,” allows Friedman, who garnered 13 percent of the votes in the 2006 Texas gubernatorial election.
He’s lived on the ranch, which until recently housed numerous rescue animals, since 1953, when he was just a kid. It’s a fairly wild place, he says. On the morning of this interview, a coyote had killed one of Friedman’s beloved dogs.
Dead dog notwithstanding, Friedman, 75, is experiencing a surge of ambition these days.
In addition to the new album and an extensive tour that brings him to the Mystic Theatre on April 24, he has completed his 21st mystery novel (“The Tin Can Telephone”). And he has co-written an upcoming book about his old bandmate Bob Dylan. Friedman was part of the caravan of musicians the rock legend enlisted in 1975 and 1976 on the infamous Rolling Thunder Tour.
The book was co-written with Louie Kemp, a childhood friend of Dylan’s who Friedman describes as Dylan’s former toboggan companion. Kemp met Dylan at age 10 at a summer camp in Minnesota. The two kids hit it off. Over the years, Kemp has maintained his friendship with Dylan.
“Louie has had a 55-year, all-access backstage pass,” Friedman says.
The working title of the book, due this summer from Random House, is “The Adventures of Bobby and Louie.”
“It’s in a Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer style and goes right up through to current days. I know, what the world needs now is another book on Bob Dylan,” Friedman quips. “But the stories in this one are unique - no one has ever heard them, because the only other guy who was there was Louie. So we have a very different picture of Bob, all without being salacious or anything. There’s little in here of a bombshell nature, though there is a payoff on just about every page.
PLAN TO GO?
What: Kinky Friedman
When: Tues., April 24, at 8 p.m.
Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.
Admission: $30/$35 (day of the show)
Tickets: Call (707) 775-6048 or visit MysticTheatre.com.