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Rock - Released May 11, 2018 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

Hi-Res Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
£16.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Since he's a limited vocalist with erratic songwriting skills, one could justifiably argue that the soundtrack medium is the best vehicle for Ry Cooder's talents, allowing him to construct eclectic, chiefly instrumental pieces drawing upon all sorts of roots music and ethnic flavors (often, but not always, employing his excellent blues and slide guitar). This two-CD, 34-song compilation gathers excerpts from 11 of the soundtracks he worked on between 1980 and 1993 (three of the cuts, from the 1981 film Southern Comfort, are previously unreleased). As few listeners (even Cooder fans) are dedicated enough to go to the trouble of finding all of his individual soundtracks, this is a good distillation of many of his more notable contributions in this idiom, although it inevitably leaves out some fine moments. Still, it's well programmed and evocative, often conjuring visions of ghostly landscapes and funky border towns. ~ Richie Unterberger
£10.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions Stereophile: Record To Die For
Ry Cooder understands that a great song is a great song, whether it was written before the Depression or last week. Still, at the same time he isn't afraid to explore new avenues and possibilities for the material. Like his three previous records, Paradise and Lunch is filled with treasures which become part of a world where eras and styles converge without ever sounding forced or contrived. One may think that an album that contains a traditional railroad song, tunes by assorted blues greats, and a Negro spiritual alongside selections by the likes of Bobby Womack, Burt Bacharach, and Little Milton may lack cohesiveness or merely come across as a history lesson, but to Cooder this music is all part of the same fabric and is as relevant and accessible as anything else that may be happening at the time. No matter when it was written or how it may have been done in the past, the tracks, led by Cooder's brilliant guitar, are taken to new territory where they can coexist. It's as if Washington Phillips' "Tattler" could have shared a place on the charts with Womack's "It's All Over Now" or Little Milton's "If Walls Could Talk." That he's successful on these, as well as the Salvation Army march of "Jesus on the Mainline" or the funky, gospel feel of Blind Willie McTell's "Married Man's a Fool," is not only a credit to Cooder's talent and ingenuity as an arranger and bandleader, but also to the songs themselves. The album closes with its most stripped-down track, an acoustic guitar and piano duet with jazz legend Earl "Fatha" Hines on the Blind Blake classic "Ditty Wah Ditty." Here both musicians are given plenty of room to showcase their instrumental prowess, and the results are nothing short of stunning. Eclectic, intelligent, and thoroughly entertaining, Paradise and Lunch remains Ry Cooder's masterpiece. ~ Brett Hartenbach
£45.99

Rock - Released September 29, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions Choc de Classica
£13.99

Rock - Released October 24, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Ry Cooder's soundtrack for The Long Riders received a top-notch treatment from Warner Bros. (Japan), who not only did an excellent remastering job, but backed it up with English lyrics to the songs, notes, and a Japanese insert. Cooder was in fine form with this score, using original material, unusual and anachronistic instruments (saz, tamboura, electric guitar), and elements of traditional songs from the Civil War period. As a result, the album can be appreciated as a unique entity, away from the film -- and bonded to the film, the music provides grace and power to the onscreen events. ~ Steven McDonald
£13.49

Rock - Released May 11, 2018 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

£15.49

Rock - Released October 24, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

The first multi-label spanning, American released Ry Cooder compilation does its best to present a coherent portrait of a musician whose wildly eclectic recordings and broad, four decade (and counting) list of releases makes that job all but impossible. Certainly the guitarist/singer/songwriter/producer and coordinator of the successful Buena Vista Social Club reunion deserves a comprehensive box set. But even then it would be difficult to follow his diverse recorded accomplishments that range from '60s work with Captain Beefheart and Taj Mahal, to sessions with Little Feat and the Rolling Stones, world music side projects, outside productions of other artists, and over a dozen solo albums that mix folk, soul, funk, rock, country blues, gospel, and Tex-Mex, among other styles. This 34-cut double-disc package, compiled by Cooder's son and musical companion Joachim, does an excellent job cherrypicking well-known nuggets along with a batch of obscurities from his father's voluminous output, resulting in an intriguing, enlightening, and above all listenable sonic résumé. Rather than arrange his father's songs in chronological order, the younger Cooder decided to take the organic approach of presenting the material in a more cohesive fashion. He mixes and matches items from papa Cooder's 1970 debut through 2008's I, Flathead to maximum effect without the jarring segues that might occur if sequencing was done in a time based manner. The elder Cooder provides short, occasionally odd, usually humorous blurbs about each track in the accompanying booklet, shedding a bit of light on the tunes, and in the case of the selections from films such as Southern Comfort, The Long Riders, and Paris, Texas, the directors he worked with. One previously unreleased tune, a passable version of "Let's Work Together" performed with Buckwheat Zydeco is here, perhaps as an enticement to collectors. But it's Joachim's excavations into his dad's deep catalog to resurrect oddities such as "Smells Like Money" from the Johnny Handsome flick and gems like the Willie Dixon/Cooder jointly composed "Which Came First" from The Slide Area that make this collection so enjoyable. Eagle eyed admirers might lament that nothing from 1978's impressive genre excursion Jazz is included, but Cooder's phenomenal slide guitar skills, and somewhat limited vocal abilities, are well displayed throughout the two-and-a-quarter hour running time. The song that helps provide the unusual title for the disc, "UFO Has Landed in the Ghetto," is M.I.A. and surely there are fan favorites that didn't make the cut due to limited space, but this is an impressive and relatively inclusive recap that is a fine starting point for anyone interested in delving into Ry Cooder's extensive and influential career. ~ Hal Horowitz
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Rock - Released July 11, 1979 | Warner Bros.

Following his conceptual 1978 release, Jazz, Ry Cooder returned the next year with the R&B/soul-based Bop Till You Drop. The first major-label, digitally recorded album, Bop is a nice set of moderately known to obscure tunes from the '50s and '60s (along with a Cooder/Tim Drummond original) that doesn't always live up to its promise. Cooder and his excellent band, which includes the rhythm section of Tim Drummond and Jim Keltner along with guitarist David Lindley, understand the material and are more than capable of laying down a decent groove, but something must have gotten lost in translation from what was played to what came across on the recording. There's a thinness to the tracks that undermines the performances, which according to Cooder is due to the digital recording. If you check out the live version of Bop Till You Drop's opener, "Little Sister," from the No Nukes record (using the same band), you can see what surely could have been. Still, Bop is worthwhile given Cooder's penchant for choosing great tunes, as well as the tight performances, brilliant guitar work, and a handful of great guest vocalists (including Chaka Khan). A few of the highlights include his arrangement of the early-'60s Elvis hit "Little Sister," the soulful "The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor)," an instrumental take on Ike & Tina Turner's "I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine," and "I Can't Win," featuring Cooder's longtime cohort Bobby King on lead vocal. ~ Brett Hartenbach
£81.99

Rock - Released December 9, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Ry Cooder is not frequently considered a prolific recording artist, yet he has amassed a sizeable catalog of original albums and film scores over the decades. He has also participated in some truly and even historic projects from the 1960s on, including the Rising Sons with Taj Mahal, the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Little Village, and the Buena Vista Social Club. Likewise, many of his collaborative dates are regarded as particularly noteworthy, especially his albums with Ali Farka Touré, V.M. Bhatt, Manuel Galban, and the Chieftains. This box collects in encyclopedic fashion Cooder's solo records for Warner beginning with his self-titled debut album and continues through his final album for the label proper, the brief yet classic Get Rhythm. In between, are Into the Purple Valley, Boomer's Story, Paradise and Lunch, Chicken Skin Music, Show Time, Jazz, Bop 'Til You Drop, Borderline, and The Slide Area. None of his soundtracks from this period are included -- too bad, actually. When tolled and juxtaposed with more recent recordings for Nonesuch, including his L.A. trilogy -- Chávez Ravine, My Name Is Buddy, I, Flathead: The Songs of Kash Buk & the Klowns -- and even Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, it is obvious that Cooder has been mining a deep, rich vein in his exploration of North American, Hawaiian music, country, folk, blues, mariachi, Tejano, Norteño, rock & roll, swing, and more, placing them in a variety of contexts, all of which yield meaning as they underscore musical and cultural history and what gets lost as it evolves. He is not a preservationist, but one of our great historians. Each chapter in his recorded legacy is worthy of investigation. As is de rigueur in this Rhino series, each album is presented bare bones, in a paper LP-cover sleeve with original, scaled-down art contained in a cardboard slipcase sans bonus material or booklet. That said, given the price, having these records in one place -- as they've all been in and out of print over the past couple of decades -- is a real plus for fans. ~ Thom Jurek
£13.99

World - Released January 27, 2003 | Nonesuch - WBR

Mambo Sinuendo is a collaboration between Ry Cooder and Buena Vista alum (and formerly of many other groups as well) Manuel Galbán. The album attempts to catch an old style popularized in Cuba by Galbán, and was, surprisingly, never followed up on by anybody after Galbán. It's a guitar-based romp closely based in the pop/jazz crossovers of the 1950s-1960s (Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, etc). There's a touch of exoticism here and there, and a larger touch of a relatively Hawaiian feel throughout the whole via the guitar techniques employed by the pair. It's all somewhere in a form between lounge, mambo, and Esquivel's old space-age-bachelor-pad music. In rare instances, there's even a little bit of a house drum loop added in by the percussionists. Aside from the stray spacey chorus in the title track, it's an entirely instrumental affair, which suits the musicians quite well, giving them a chance to show off their full virtuosity along the way. The musicality these guitarists hold, and the interplay between them, is really the treat of the album. For a nice look at the musical genre that never was, but probably should have been, this makes a good show. Newcomers to Cooder should perhaps dig into some older releases to get a feel before coming to this album, but all others should embrace it quickly. ~ Adam Greenberg
£10.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

Ry Cooder has always believed in the "mutuality in music," and this may be no more evident in his career than with his fifth album, Chicken Skin Music (a Hawaiian colloquialism, synonymous with goosebumps). Even more than usual, Cooder refuses to recognize borders -- geographical or musical -- presenting "Stand By Me" as a gospel song with a norteño arrangement, or giving the Jim Reeves country-pop classic, "He'll Have to Go," a bolero rhythm, featuring the interplay of Flaco Jimenez's accordion and Pat Rizzo's alto sax. Elsewhere, he teams with a pair of Hawaiian greats -- steel guitarist and singer Gabby Pahinui and slack key guitar master Atta Isaacs -- on the Hank Snow hit "Yellow Roses" and the beautiful instrumental "Chloe." If Cooder's approach to the music is stylistically diverse, his choice of material certainly follows suit. Bookended by a couple of Leadbelly compositions, Chicken Skin Music sports a collection of songs ranging from the aforementioned tracks to the charming old minstrel/medicine show number "I Got Mine" and the syncopated R&B of "Smack Dab in the Middle." Also included is Appalachian songwriter Blind Alfred Reed's "Always Lift Him Up," complete with a Hawaiian gospel tune, "Kanaka Wai Wai," woven into the instrumental section. As he explains in the album's liner notes, Cooder understands the connection between these seemingly disparate styles. This is not merely eclecticism for its own sake. Chicken Skin Music is probably Ry Cooder's most eccentric record since his first, but it's also one of his most entertaining. ~ Brett Hartenbach
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Rock - Released January 11, 1991 | Warner Bros.

Boomer's Story, Ry Cooder's third record, continues his archeological dig through music's familiar and forgotten past. As was the case with his previous recordings, he not only looks to the masters -- including blues legend Sleepy John Estes, songwriter Dan Penn (both of whom appear here) and the great Skip James -- for material, but to lost and neglected pieces of American folk and blues, as well. Cooder adds the traditional title-track, which opens the album, and Lawrence Wilson's "Crow Black Chicken," which dates back to the late 1920s, to this collection of discoveries -- both of which are handled with just the right balance of personality and reverence. Elsewhere, he injects a dark irony into the jingoistic "Rally 'Round the Flag," with its slow, mournful piano (played by Randy Newman) and slide guitar, while the Joseph Spence-style guitar arrangement of the World War II standard "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer" has a sense of hope and conviction. Often criticized for possessing a less than commanding voice, Cooder steps back from the microphone for four of the album's ten tracks -- three instrumentals and one featuring Sleepy John Estes on his own "President Kennedy." And while all of the instrumentals presented here are fine renditions of great tunes, it's "Dark End of the Street" which truly stands out. Here, Cooder realizes that the only thing in his arsenal that can do justice to James Carr's definitive version is his own remorseful slide guitar. Without uttering a single lyric, he's able to convey the shame and deep regret of the Dan Penn/Chips Moman classic. Thanks to moments like this, along with Cooder's consistently strong choice of material and brilliant guitar work, Boomer's Story -- less eccentric than his first, and less eclectic than Into the Purple Valley -- ranks among his best work ~ Brett Hartenbach
£15.49

Rock - Released August 29, 2011 | Nonesuch

Booklet
Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, issued between two national election cycles, is the most overtly political album Ry Cooder has ever released, and one of his funniest, most musically compelling ones, too. Cooder looks deeply into his musical past using his entire Americana musical arsenal: blues, folk, ragtime, norteño, rock, and country here. Opener "No Banker Left Behind" updates Civil War-era marching music. Cooder's guitar, banjo, bass, and mandola lead drummer (and son) Joachim through a scathing indictment of the the financial bailout in 2007. The marching rhythms are punched through with sharp banjo and mandola riffs as Cooder's signature electric guitar sound frames them. "El Corrido Jesse James" has the outlaw speaking from heaven in waltz time. Accompanied by Flaco Jimenez's accordion and a horn section, James claims that while he was a bank robber, he never "turned a family from their house," and asks God for his trusty .44 to "put that bonus money back where it belongs." "Quick Sand" is a shuffling electric rocker that addresses the plight of illegal immigrants crossing into Arizona. "Christmas Time This Year" is the most incendiary anti-war song in a decade, presented innocently as a Mexican polka. "Lord Tell Me Why" borrows production techniques from Tom Waits, with co-writer and drummer Jim Keltner who assists in getting across this biting, ironic gospel tune: "Lord tell me why a white man/Ain't worth nothin' in this world no more...." An 11-piece band assists in "I Want My Crown," a scorching, growling blues with Cooder's nasty guitar leading the charge. It's followed by the album's finest moment, "John Lee Hooker for President," where Cooder does a shockingly accurate impression of the late bluesman, in fine boogie mode, paying a visit to the White House, not liking what he sees, and deciding to run for office: "I'm compastatic. I ain't Republican or Democratic." He names Jimmy Reed as Veep and Johnny Taylor Secretary of State. His campaign promises swift retribution for injustice and a "groove time" for the nation. If only. The depth of Cooder's rage is quieter but more direct as the album draws to a close. In "If There Is a God," God's been driven from heaven by redistricting; he, "Jesus, Mary and Joe" all hit the road for Mexico. God goes so far as to say he thinks the "Republiklan" legislature wants to bring back Jim Crow laws. Cooder's sorrow about the environment is pervasive in the final corrido, though he, like the Buddha, leaves room for tolerance, wishing his enemies "No Hard Feelings." Those who've followed Cooder from the beginning will find much to love on Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down. Those music fans unfamiliar with his work but looking for a comrade in arms will find one here. That said, this is revolution music; worthy of dancing to, learning from, and singing along with: who says topical music has to be boring? ~ Thom Jurek
£11.99

Country - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Bros.

Already a seasoned music business veteran at the age of 22, Ry Cooder stepped out from behind the shadows of the likes of Jackie DeShannon, Taj Mahal, the Rolling Stones, and Captain Beefheart, signing his own deal with Warner Brothers records in 1969. Released the following year, Cooder's eponymous debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker's idiosyncratic production; and Parks and Kirby Johnson's string arrangements. And while he's still finding his feet as a singer, Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements. For material, Cooder, the son of folklorist parents, unearths ten gems -- spanning six decades dating back to the 1920s -- by legends such as Woody Guthrie, Blind Blake, Sleepy John Estes, and Leadbelly, as well as a current Randy Newman composition. Still, as great as his outside choices are, it's the exuberant charm of his own instrumental "Available Space" that nearly steals the show. Its joyful interplay between Cooder's slide, Van Dyke Parks' music hall piano, and the street-corner drumming creates a piece that is both loose and sophisticated. If "Available Space" is the record's most playful moment, its closer, "Dark Is the Night," is the converse, with Cooder's stark, acoustic slide extracting every ounce of torment from Blind Willie Johnson's mournful masterpiece. Some of the eccentric arrangements may prove to be a bit much for both purists and pop audiences alike, but still, Cooder's need to stretch, tempered with a reverence for the past, helps to create a completely original work that should reward adventurous listeners. ~ Brett Hartenbach
£13.99

Rock - Released May 29, 2005 | Nonesuch

Three years in the making, Chavez Ravine: A Record by Ry Cooder, is his first "solo" offering since 1987's Get Rhythm. In addition, it is a concept album; but don't be afraid. It documents in mythical style the disappeared Los Angeles neighborhood of Chavez Ravine, a Mexican-American district that fought over by real etate developers, urban planning activists and city government. It was bulldozed in a sleazy deal was cut and it was razed order to erect a stadium that woiuld lure Walter O'Malley's Brooklyn Dodgers to L.A. Cooder's work has almost always concerned itself with what has been left out, marginalized, or relegated to the place of memory; it was inspired by a book of black-and-white photographs of the area by Don Normark. Over the course of its 15 songs Cooder poignantly, yet warmly, sets out to portray the flavor of the place, times, culture, chaos, and corruption of post-war Los Angeles. Here UFOs, the Red Scare, the Pachuco Scare, boxers, cops, hipster "cool cats," ordinary folks, race politics, class war, the radio, J. Edgar Hoover, baseball, and of course musicians, slip in and out of this steamy, dreamy, seamless mix that evokes an emotional palette rich and complex. The tunes range from boxy corridos, Latin swing numbers, guaraches, Afro-Cuban sons, smoky polkas, moody atmospheric pieces, riotous good-time Pachuco boogie, rootsy rock, Costa Rican folk songs, and R&B tunes. Heroes and villains come and go in this panorama, all winding around in the little neighborhood where people hang out, sing, dance, make love, struggle and sweat for a better life in the American Dream. Sung in Spanish and English, Cooder sought out musicians from the era and the place, including the late Pachuco boogie boss Don Tosti, the late legendary Lalo Guerrero (the guiding force and spirit of the album who also passed away after contributing), Ersi Arvizu, and Little Willie G., all of whom appear with Joachim Cooder, Juliette & Carla Commagere, Jim Keltner, Flaco Jimenez, Mike Elizondo, Gil Bernal, Ledward Kaapana, Joe Rotunde, Rosella Arvizu, and others. "Poor Man's Shangri-La," is a finger-popping rhumba where the extraterrestrial Space Vato beams down in a UFO to check out the 'hood to the sounds of Little Julian Herrera on the radio. Little Willie G. and the Commagere Sisters offer the lilting "Onda Calljera," a folk song documenting a war between locally stationed military and pachucos. Chavez Ravine is an intricately woven web of covers including "3 Cool Cats," by Leiber & Stoller, Guerrero's "Corrido de Boxeo" and "Barrio Viejo," and originals like the cinematic "Don't Call Me Red" (where the taped voices of Frank Wilkinson, Jack Webb, and Raymond Burr all dialogue intensely about the FBI and communist activities) and "3rd Base, Dodger Stadium," sung by longtime Cooder mate James Bla Pahinui -- who plays the part of a stadium car parker whose home was covered over by the hot corner in the ballpark. Chavez Ravine is sad and beautiful, funny, quirky and funky; it's got dirt under its nails and keeps listeners engaged from the jump with history and its colorful ghosts. Cooder sends it all off with solace, and perhaps with some hope, in a version of "Soy Luz y Sombra," a gorgeous a cappella Costa Rican folk tune with original music. Chavez Ravine is easily the most ambitious thing in Cooder's catalog, and it just may be the grand opus of his career. ~Thom Jurek
£13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

With 1980's Borderline, Ry Cooder followed the foray into R&B and soul of his previous effort, Bop Till You Drop, but this time out with a little shot of the Southwest thrown in. At the same time, he also continues the primarily electric sound of that record. As far as his selection of material goes, Borderline may sometimes lack the surprising, esoteric charm of his earlier recordings, but there are still some terrific finds, including the Tex-Mex-flavored "The Girls from Texas," which may be the album's finest moment. Other highlights include one of John Hiatt's best, the written-to-order "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," as well as Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Crazy 'Bout an Automobile," which Cooder had been performing live for a number of years, and the soulful Maurice & Mac treasure "Why Don't You Try Me." And while it's moments like these that help make Cooder's records special, he also takes on some better-known '50s and '60s offerings with moderate success. His recording of Wilson Pickett's 1966 hit "634-5789" isn't going to make anyone forget the original, but he's able to pull it off as a rocker, while "Speedo" and "Down in the Boondocks" are respectable covers. Borderline may not have the singular personality of his best '70s work, but it's a solid outing nonetheless. ~ Brett Hartenbach
£13.99

Jazz - Released June 20, 2008 | Nonesuch

Ry Cooder has always been a musical storyteller, from his self-titled debut album (which featured both well-known and under-recognized folk, blues, swing, and jug tunes) to Boomer's Story, his last two offerings for Nonesuch (Chavez Ravine and My Name Is Buddy), and his many film scores (including those for The Long Riders, Paris, Texas, Last Man Standing, Geronimo, and The End of Violence, just to mention a few). When his contributions as a musicologist, producer, and collaborator -- such as his contributions to the various Buena Vista Social Club recordings (including the film score) and his work with V.M. Bhatt, Pops Staples, Ersi Arvizu, and guitarist Manuel Galbán of Los Zafiros -- are included, he becomes a genuine mythmaker. I, Flathead contributes to the weight of Cooder's legend in many ways. First, there's the title, an obvious nod to the late Isaac Asimov's I, Robot; then there's the legend -- the entire story is told in a 100-page, hardbound novella that accompanies the Deluxe Edition -- about beatnik, country music nut, and salt-flats racer Kash Buk, his band the Klowns, the strange and wonderful extraterrestrial visitor called Shakey, and the Passenger who pursues him. It's even subtitled "The Songs of Kash Buk and the Klowns." Finally, there's the music; it's a set of 14 original tunes that employ everything from country rockabilly to blues; strange, shimmering exotica; and Latin-influenced rock, swing, and mariachi music. Musically, there isn't anything here you haven't heard from Cooder before, but it's shaken and stirred differently and owes a nod or two to Tom Waits' deadpan storytelling manner. This album doesn't have the futuristic Latin groove of Chavez Ravine or the traveling dust-bowl balladic country and folk that was on My Name Is Buddy, but it is simultaneously as welcoming and off-putting as both those earlier records. The songs can be enjoyed with or without the novella, as they were meant to stand apart. The story in it is directly related, but there is a story the recording tells on its own. The sound of the record is frighteningly crystalline for roots-oriented music -- the dirty-assed bottleneck slide guitar-fueled "Ridin' with the Blues," with drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Rene Camacho, feels too clean despite its tempo and loose vibe. "Pink-O Boogie" follows with the same band -- with added percussion from Joachim Cooder -- but the groove is nastier and dirtier, and feels like it could have come from the Get Rhythm album in 1987. Near the end, Jesús Guzmán arranges some crazy string work to take it out. The rootsy rocker "Waitin' for Some Girl," where Cooder plays everything but drums (courtesy of Martin Pradler) sounds like a lost John Hiatt tune from Ry's Slide Area period (it's also better than anything that Hiatt has come up with himself in ages). Old pal Flaco Jiménez lends his accordion to "Filipino Dancehall Girl," a beautiful norteño tune that is kissed by cha-cha in Joachim's rhythms. "Spayed Kooley" is, as one might expect, a humorous Western swing jam, but played by a basic rock trio. And then there's the beautifully articulated swing ballad "My Dwarf Is Getting Tired," one of the more beautifully warm broken love songs Cooder has ever written -- and the string touches by Guzmán make it a shuffling lounge fave. Ultimately, "quirky" doesn't begin to describe I, Flathead, but it doesn't have to: this disc is simultaneously both vintage and futuristic Cooder doing what he does best, offering listeners ghost traces of the past as they materialize on the dusty desert horizon like a mirage. ~ Thom Jurek
£11.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Bros.

Ry Cooder is known as a virtuoso on almost every stringed instrument, and on Into the Purple Valley, he demonstrates this ability on a wide variety of instruments. The main focus of the music here is on the era of the Dust Bowl, and what was happening in America at the time, socially and musically. Songs by Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and a variety of others show Cooder's encyclopedic knowledge of the music of this time, combined with an instinctive feel for the songs. 'Phenomenal' is the descriptive word to describe his playing, whether it is on guitar, Hawaiian "slack key" guitar, mandolin, or the more arcane instruments he has found. This is a must for those who love instrumental virtuosity, authentic reworkings of an era, or just plain good music. ~ Bob Gottlieb
£13.99

Folk - Released September 1, 2006 | Nonesuch

Booklet
During the present era, as the Iraq war grinds on, Americans are trying belly-button gazing, trying to remember a history where America regarded itself as world citizen, and came to the aid of many nations in trouble and nearing despair. It is true that this is part of our national heritage and America as a whole is, or at least used to be, known the globe over for the generosity of its people. Like any story, there are multiple narrative threads at work in defining such a history, and at least one has been all but forgotten and virtually erased by numerous politicos since the 1980s. Ry Cooder's My Name Is Buddy offers a view of an America in deep trouble with itself during the Great Depression when it either couldn't -- or wouldn't? -- feed its own people. Cooder's narrative is told in his own versions of folk tales through the voices of Buddy Red Cat, Lefty Mouse, and the Reverend Tom Toad. They are set during the Dust Bowl era of the '30s when many people were economically forced to relocate or become ramblers and hoboes, roaming listlessly over the continental terrain. The truth behind these stories is an official part of American history, yet they were all but absent in "popular culture" during the last two decades with few exceptions. Music has recently -- in the mid-'90s tribute to Woody Guthrie, and in the music of Bruce Springsteen, Michael Franti, Mike Ness, and Bob Dylan -- addressed this period and on occasion gotten into the charts. The politics here are unapologetically left of center: J. Edgar Hoover is portrayed in a song about a pig bearing his name, a copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital adorns the inside cover (one of the beautiful illustrations by Vincent Valdes), the songs are chock-full of unions and strikes, labor and hobo camps, big bosses, sundown towns, bigotry, and corruption. The lyrics have their fair share of real anger in them, though there is no political sloganeering or sermonizing -- just check out "One Cat, One Vote, One Beer" -- Cooder uses humor instead. He introduces each of the 17 tunes with prosaic vignettes (one for each track) in the CD booklet; these provide the context of each song. Old-timey string band music, blues, bluegrass, country, polka, jazz, corridos, and more are the musical vehicles these tunes travel the rails and roads in, and Cooder has again chosen his collaborators well. While Mike Seeger, now a king of the traditional American music scene, is a mainstay on fiddle and other instruments, his brother Pete, an actual warrior of the time period portrayed, is also present , as are Ry's son Joachim, bassist Mike Elizondo, Juliette Commagere, Stefon Harris, Flaco Jimenez, Van Dyke Parks, Roland White, Jim Keltner, Jon Hassell, the Chieftains' Paddy Moloney, and others. Here is a supergroup arranged in various conglomerations to play simple tunes that tell hard stories, funny though they may be on the surface. Singling out tracks is mostly futile, because all 17 are solid, noteworthy in their own merit making the whole virtually unassailable. Besides, the contextual framing of this concept work is important enough to warrant notice as an "unofficial" history--as if the official version were any more accurate; music has a way of making folk tales true, and when informed by the perspective of history, becomes part and parcel of the thing itself. What can be said is that My Name Is Buddy sounds like another restless Ry Cooder album, though rooted as it is in the very music he was playing when he began his recording career some 17 albums ago (the subtitle of the album is "Another Record by Ry Cooder.") After resurrecting the Buena Vista Social Club, his last outing, Chavez Ravne, was a look at one of the last working class L.A. neighborhoods of the past, from the street and from outer space, through social narrative toward the future of its ruins. My Name Is Buddy is an offering where time and space are erased too; so much so that the past is looking at the future looking back at itself as in some dirty mirror uncovered in a corner of a forgotten closet. All of this said, the set is actually great fun to listen to; it is ever shifting musically, friendly, full of the kind of warmth that folk tales generate. The main characters may be mythological, but these days, when anyone remembers or even speaks of Joe Hill, Paul Robeson, Emma Goldman, Guthrie, C.L.R. James, Stokely Carmichael, David Harris, Marcus Garvey, Fred Hampton or even Phil Ochs, it's as if they were mythic creatures who passed through social history to instruct not as real people, but as voices from an ether we can't quite tune in anymore. At least one of these men is alive in the simple, sage-like persona of Pete Seeger, who continues the struggle that his late fellow myths had to hand down. Fans of Cooder's will flip over this; fans of freak folk might get a mighty charge out of it as well and find a way to dig deeper into the subjects addressed. Certainly the NPR crowd will find it an all but obligatory-to-own CD, but in so many ways, My Name Is Buddy isn't really for any of them: it's for those who are encountering these kinds of stories for the first time. It's a record of an era, but it's also an introduction to a way of looking at America from inside that hasn't been represented in "popular" music for quite some time. Instrumentally and lyrically brilliant, sociologically intelligent, and anthropologically astute, My Name Is Buddy stands tall against Cooder's best work from the '70s; whether it be his self-titled debut, Paradise and Lunch, Into the Purple Valley or Boomer's Story. My Name Is Buddy is an equal among greats, and may prove to be as enduring, but it's more than that, too: it's a re-telling; a reclaiming of history in the grand treasure trove of the folk tradition. ~ Thom Jurek
£23.97

Country - Released July 9, 2018 | Sandoz