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Abstracted from its premise, some of the pairings on the King of the Hill television soundtrack sound downright dubious.
Brooks and Dunn covering Mike Seeger’s “Against the Wind”? The Mavericks singing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner”? Tonic doing Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down”? The Old 97’s retreading Marty Robbins’ “El Paso”? Deann Carter on Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'”?
These are easily some of the most recognizable songs on the planet, primarily because they conjure up stereotypical images of hicks, rednecks and, as Hank Hill’s Laotian neighbor Khan regularly excoriates, “hillbillies.”
In the context of Arlen’s suburban tomfoolery, these songs become anthems for the (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) American dream.
And yet, there’s something tongue-in-cheek in how earnestly these musicians cover — somewhat accurately, in many cases — these rather dated country hits. Perhaps it’s the intra-track commentary provided by the cast of the show that makes the cheekiness of these covers all the more apparent.
“That dang ol’ Mavericks, man, can’t understand a word they’re saying. What they talkin’ about? Standin’ on the corner? Makes no sense …” That from Boomhauer.
The centerpiece of the soundtrack, however, is “Mow Against the Grain,” a satircal take on “Everybody’s Free … (to Wear Sunscreen)” featuring the King of the Hill cast dispensing nuggets of middle American wisdom.
“Enjoy your body,” Luanne Platter says. “Show it off as much as you can.”
“Enjoy your body,” Bobby Hill follows. “You can use parts of it to make farting sounds.”
The remaining tracks feature originals from the well-known usual suspects: Faith Hill, Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies. Although tangential to the album’s core humor, they do make for a nice contrast.
In short, this soundtrack perfectly captures the spirit of the show.