Review : Ry Cooder - Election Special
PopmattersIt’s hard to think of another musical career quite like that of guitar legend Ry Cooder. He first surfaced in 1964, at the age of 17, playing in a rootsy blues-rock band called Rising Sons with Taj Mahal and drummer Ed Cassidy (who later co-founded Spirit with his stepson Randy California). They cut an album’s worth of material that went unreleased until 1992 before going their separate ways in 1966. At that point, Cooder became a much in-demand studio musician, working with everyone from Captain Beefheart to the Monkees. Most famously, he played with the Rolling Stones, including the mandolin break on their cover of Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” and a classic slide solo on “Sister Morphine”.
His first, eponymous solo record came out in 1970 and largely consisted of old folk and blues covers, including left-wing political classics like Woody Guthrie’s “Do-Re-Mi” and Blind Alfred Reed’s “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”(later covered and partially rewritten, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, by Bruce Springsteen). Over the course of the decade, he released seven albums that flew in the face of every current trend, from metal to singer-songwriter soft rock to disco and punk, exploring various American roots styles, incorporating sounds from gospel and soul to Tex-Mex and Cajun into his instantly recognizable music. One thing that didn’t seem to interest him, though, was songwriting. Aside from the scores he did for his friend Walter Hill’s films (starting with The Long Riders in 1980), he confined himself to playing other people’s music. Over the first two decades of his career, he never included more than one or two originals on each of his records, and they were never more than pastiches of the various styles that surrounded them....full text
BbcEven by Ry Cooder’s characteristically rarefied standards, this is a noble curiosity. After inspirational adventures with Cuban, Mexican and many other musical styles – not to mention a series of blissfully evocative movie soundtracks – Cooder gathers up his considerable roots in blues and R&B and steams into Barack Obama’s corner to help him hang on to the US presidency.
America does have a tradition of campaigning songwriting, though it has rarely been as overt as Cooder’s approach here. He plays a variety of instruments, with son Joachim on drums, on a snarling succession of songs aimed right at jugular of the 2012 election.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney is mercilessly lampooned in a shuffling blues written from the viewpoint of his pet dog, while the likes of Wall Street, Guantanamo, the Koch brothers and Sarah Palin are savaged by an artist sounding more animated than he’s done for years.
Amongst this incendiary fare is a Robert Johnson deal-with-the-devil crossroads moment on Brother is Gone, highlighted by a wonderful mandolin arrangement. Elsewhere, more general attacks are made on Republican values with Kool-Aid – blistering electric guitar and jagged production disguising an updated Cocaine Blues – and the stomping The Wall Street Part of Town....full text
GuardianAfter last year's magnificent Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, Ry Cooder returns to the political arena with a vengeance as the race for the White House intensifies. Musically, this is very much a DIY album, with Cooder matching his passionate vocals against his own guitar, bass and mandolin, with his son Joachim on drums. The anger, protest and concern is made all the more effective through his use of humour and unexpectedly upbeat melodies. So the opening Mutt Romney Blues takes a swipe at the Republican candidate from the viewpoint of his mistreated dog, while The Wall Street Part of Town offers cheerful, stomping encouragement to protesters. Then there's the jaunty Brother Is Gone, in which the rich and influential Koch brothers sell their souls to the devil, while Kool-Aid deals with the controversial "stand your ground" self-defence law. Best of all, there's Take Your Hands Off It, a rousing defence of constitutional rights, and Cold Cold Feeling, a sympathetic blues for Obama, with the lines "if you've never been president, you don't know how it feels". An entertaining, thoughtful and bravely original set....full text
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