HOW MUCH you can take of David Allan Coe's hard-edged country music depends on how much you can take of David Allan Coe, the megalomaniac outlaw. For reference, listen to the grim "Longhaired Redneck," "Willie, Waylon and Me" and "Take This Job and Shove It," from his latest collection, "For the Record . . . The First Ten Years."
Coe, who likes to project himself as Nashville's only Death Row graduate, has had more ups and downs than Joe Theismann, but he has gamely hung in against the hit-making machinery and pursued a personal, if somewhat skewed, vision of what country music should be. "If That Ain't Country," "Jack Daniels, if You Please" and "Now I Lay Me Down to Cheat" are all raw reflections of the arrogance and pain endemic to the genre.
Along the way, this rhinestone cowboy has also wrtten some fine songs for others -- Tanya Tucker's "Would You Lay With Me (in a Field of Stone)" -- covered others writers' offerings (Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Call Me by My Name," Coe's first top ten hit) and done some fine duets with George Jones ("This Bottle in My Hand") and Bill Anderson ("Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands").
Among the most recent songs included here are Coe's two biggest airplay hits: "The Ride," the compelling narrative of a hitch- hiker's encounter with the ghost of Hank Williams; and the maudlin "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile." His voice is whiskey-worn and memory-hardened, the songs covering the range from silly ("Divers Do It Deeper") to poignant ("Jody Like a Melody"). An interesting man, this David Allan Coe.
DAVID ALLAN COE -- "For the Record . . . The First Ten Years" (Columbia KC2 39585); appearing Friday at the Warner Theater.