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Kid Rock Makes A Compelling "Storyteller"

Of the Oakland Press

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There was a time when "VH1 Storytellers" was a low-key affair, a stripped-down cousin of "MTV Unplugged" that allowed artists to offer intimate insights about their music.

But that's not how Kid Rock approaches his moment on the series. Big surprise, eh?

A rule-breaker by nature, Rock starts his "Storytellers" episode -- which debuts on Thanksgiving night -- with a white-robed choir trooping on stage to back him on a full-throttle version of his rap-rock hit "Bawitdaba," followed by Rock himself, in black T-shirt, fedora and shades and promising to present "the story of hip-hop, R&B, country, blues, soul gospel and rock 'n' roll." In other words, he's not exactly pitching low.

Fortunately, the Romeo, Mich., native and Clarkston resident is also a natural, well, storyteller and therefore a perfect if boundary-pushing subject for the "Storyteller" format. Even amidst the bombast he's intimate, gracious humble, on good behavior for an audience at The Factory in Franklin, Tenn. and providing illuminating commentaries -- "a little journey, as he puts it" -- about his music and life, and how the two intertwine.

Throughout the hour Rock (real name Bob Ritchie) name-checks former Twisted Brown Trucker bandmates Kenny Olson and the late Joe C., and Detroit-based producer and collaborator Mike Clark, while his current Twisted Brown Trucker lineup gets plenty of face time in the footage. Before "Devil Without a Cause" he reveals that Joe C. was freaked out about his father being in the studio while he was recording his profane rap and that the MC was having trouble getting his lines right -- until Rock put a stack of money on the recording console, threatening to take away a dollar each time C. made a mistake.

"The next take, he got it right," Rock notes.

Focusing mostly -- four of the episode's six songs -- on his latest album, "Rock N Roll Jesus," Rock recasts "So Hott" [cq] as a John Lee Hooker shuffle and how he turned his "marriage debacle" with Pamela Anderson into the song "Half Your Age," inspired to take it in a humorous direction during a flight to see "a [i]very[/i] young Danish supermodel" he was dating at the time. He also introduces his latest hit, "All Summer Long," with a demonstration of how he "mashed up" elements of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" with his own melody and lyrics.

"We were doing mash-ups 20 years ago at basement parties," Rock recalls, cracking that the collision of styles comes naturally to him."I'm just creatively confused, to be honest with you."

Rock closes the telecast with "Amen," calling it "one of the best things I've ever written" and explaining that it was a response to a challenge by producer Rick Rubin to write something "relevant" rather than the mack daddy rap-rock he's known for. "I bring people together very well," Rock notes. "I'm very good at speaking the truth. I just don't have a good enough memory to lie!"

And with "Storytellers," Rock's spoken words certainly speak as potently as his music.

"VH1 Storytellers: Kid Rock" premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 27). A sneak peak is currently available at www.vh1.com, and a longer version of the episode with songs not included in the telecast will go up on the web site Thursday as well.

Web Site: www.vh1.com

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