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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

Rock - Released August 29, 2011 | Nonesuch

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