Rudi Protrudi’s Lady Killer


Around 9/11/2001, something terrible happened. Country music became nationalistic and religious. Honky-tonkers, like myself, have been mystified for nearly a decade by the influx of the southern pop singers deceptively calling themselves country musicians, while rejecting the traditional themes of country songs (i.e. cheating, drinking, heartbreak, etc.). In fact, my fellow honky-tonkers and I long for a return to an era when country music was so well-rounded with its commentary on the human psyche that even the subject of murder wasn’t “off the table.” The album Lady Killer, by Rudi Protrudi, is a fitting answer to that longing and a stark reminder of how insightful genuine country music can be.


Eight Days Clean – This song’s musical arrangement, by itself, creates a sad, sentimental sound. However, upon listening to the lyrics, one quickly realizes that this song isn’t a typical honky-tonk tear-jerker. In fact, this song’s tale of a “drugstore cowboy” and his insatiable appetite for hard drugs leaves the listener wondering whether or not the narrator deserves sympathy or outright scorn and derision. The narrator, then, paints a worst picture of himself by recounting his murdering his girlfriend who left him “when she couldn’t stand the pain.” Though the murder story is enough to cause revulsion for anyone of sound morals, the narrator, while in prison, again gives the listener reason for having sympathy. While in prison, the narrator recants “the broken glass that floated through my veins, the thunderstorm that racked my aching brain. It’s all over now, I’m living without fear. She’d be so proud…if only she were here,” thus displaying remorse over his devilish deed.

 

Psycho- Originally recorded by Eddie Noack in 1968, this creepy song is easily one of my top 10 favorite country tunes. Not only are the lyrics virtually impeccable, Rudi’s nightmarish musical arrangement, with its haunting steel guitar infusions, ideally accompanies this song’s disturbing story of a murderous psychopath. The song begins with the narrator retelling his recent murdering of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to “mama.” After warning “mama” to refrain from handing him Johnny’s little dog, out of fears he “might squeeze him too tight,” the narrator becomes even creepier, by remembering waking up in Johnny’s room with his hands around Johnny’s throat. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, the narrator, having spent the song addressing “mama,” ends the song by pleading “mama, please get up.” Sure, this song is creepy, especially from Rudi’s perspective, but this song represents traditional country’s ability to probe ALL elements of the individual’s psyche…even if that involves the mindset of a serial killer.

 

Stalking After Midnight- Leave it to the brilliantly twisted mind of Rudi Protrudi to take a classy country song from Patsy Cline, Walking After Midnight, and turn it into a tune about stalking. Like the other songs from this album, this song, though disturbing, has a theme-appropriate musical arrangement which ideally suits Rudi’s threatening tone. Always in-character, while singing the lyrics, Rudi almost seems to be panting, as if he’s secretly watching an unsuspecting woman. Sure enough, as the song ends, Rudi unabashedly maintains the narrator’s character by breathing heavily. Once again, is this song creepy? Certainly, but one has to admire Rudi’s ability to convincingly sing these tunes of disturbingly tragic love.

 

Unlike most artists, who cover songs as though they’re just routinely running through tried-and-true lyrics, Rudi’s distinct musical arrangements make these classics his own. Additionally, Rudi arranges the instrumentals in a way which makes the listener appropriately uneasy, while maintaining traditional country elements (pedal steel guitar, instrumental separation, and shuffle beats). As for the albums content…it’s disturbing. However, the content is only disturbing in today’s context of a country music industry that has “gone soft.” Most of these songs that Rudi covers are songs from the mid-century golden age of country, when listeners were more accustomed to hearing artists push the envelope.
Real country music is all about honesty. Rudi Protrudi’s Lady Killer doesn’t pretend that all is fine with the world. Instead, the album is an unapologetically honest look at the dark mindset of a killer.

The Gatz Nieblas Show is on Wednesday from 11pm to 1am PST

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