Brian Molnar (Photo: Brian Kanof)
Kinky Friedman is enjoying somewhat of a career "Resurrection"—to use the title of his current tour—and Brian Molnar is a substantial part of the reason.
The New Jersey-based guitarist produced Texan Friedman's acclaimed 2015 album The Loneliest Man I Ever Met—his first album of new material in over 30 years—and with guitarist Joe Cirotti has backed Friedman at his last appearances at B.B. King's in New York, including last week's Resurrected tour stop.
Molnar's acoustic guitar set with Cirotti was comprised of songs from his new album Old Paint, which unlike his previous albums is entirely traditional, with songs like "Mountain Dew," "Pretty Polly" and the title deriving "I Ride an Old Paint."
"I've never done a 'cover' album," says Molnar. "But I think Old Paint has a tone that I've been striving for for a long time, and has the best sound I've yet achieved."
The album's songs "all have had a great influence on me and the band," he continues. "They're where I come from musically: They've all touched my imagination for a long time and are much like the trunk of the tree from which the branches of my writing has come. I'd be nowhere without these songs and others like them."
In fact, Molnar says he could have chosen hundreds of songs like the ones that "I know and love" that did make the cut.
"But these stood out in the studio," he explains. "I hope to do a follow-up album at some point of some more traditionals, but these clicked with the band, and flow well together as a cohesive collection. But it's nice to have options!"
Molnar's band, by the way, is called Slow Rolling Low and is credited with him on the album.
"We named the band after the Billy Joe Shaver song 'Slow Rolling Low,'" he says. "We love Billy Joe!"
Molnar also has an album of original songs already recorded, to be finished and released later this year. But he'll first head to Texas after the tour to begin recording Friedman's first album of new original material in over 30 years, tentatively titled The Matlock Collection after Willie Nelson cautioned Friedman against watching Matlock reruns instead of writing songs.
"I met Kinky at one of his shows near me in New Jersey and he invited me to Texas," recalls Molnar. "When I got to his ranch and we were talking about music I asked him if he wanted to hear any of mine. He said, 'No, but since you're here I guess I have to—but I haven't heard anything good in 30 years.' So I played him the CD I had out at the time—Of the Fall [recorded with his band the Naked Hearts and released in 2011]--and he said, 'That's the best thing I've heard in 30 years!' And we have been touring together and I have been producing him ever since."
The experience, he says, "is a bit bipolar!"
"But it really is a lot of fun," he adds. "We play every night, usually 20 to 30 shows at a clip. We travel as bare-bones as possible, just a couple of guitars, suitcases and CDs and merchandise to sell. It is amazing the legions of fans that come out to see him: He is definitely a unique act in that he has political fans, literary fans, comedy fans, and music fans. I don't know who else is like that. So the audience is definitely unique, too, which makes for a very interesting show everywhere we go."
Brian Molnar and his band Slow Rolling Low perform "I've Been All Around This World," the lead track from their new album 'Old Paint.'