"I'm from Kentucky, born and raised, on the outside," Tommy Womack writes in a memoir of high school. "But I'm Arkansas as hell inside. I'm not particularly ashamed or proud either way about either one. It's just who I am." Ever since his stint with wacked-out post-punkers Government Cheese, Womack has been plumbing the racial, class and religious disfigurations of that Southern self -- which, gentle St. Louis reader, is the mirror we'd rather avoid -- and finding a way out through honesty. That's the comedic wisdom of his small-town satires. "I can't see tomorrow, but I can see today," he drawls. "I'm going nowhere, but at least I know the way."
As a teen, Womack discovered the addictive thrall of rock & roll in the form of Kiss -- onstage he frequently pillories Doctor Love in an epic, spoken-word digression -- but he clearly soaked up the anthemic rapture, the huge guitar hooks and shout-it-out choruses of flash-pot rock, and he filters it all through twisted intelligence, distilling ironic-but-never-detached celebrations of the most messed-up of lives. Womack won't abandon his history, but he won't let it off the hook either. Because he doesn't gloss over who he is and where he comes from, his character sketches are always deeply, violently human. "I'm so glad that I don't have a gun," he hollers over one more mangled guitar crescendo. Be very glad. Songs, for Womack, are weapons enough.