Ry Cooder Sounds As Good As Ever On New Album

Ry Cooder’s got a new album coming out this week, and the couple of tracks we’ve heard so far represent just the kind of top-drawer material we’ve come to expect from this guy over the years. Like a relentless desert breeze that never stops blowing, Cooder has been carving out his unique imprint on the musical landscape since the prehistoric days of Rock, and he’s done it without ever attracting a whole lot of attention from the public at large. His considerable impact on Rock has been mostly behind the scenes, as a musician, a producer, and a collaborator.

Cooder’s distinctive slide guitar techniques were a major influence on George Harrison and Keith Richards, and that alone is a serious claim to fame. Not only is he a guitar virtuoso, he is also world-class caliber on the banjo and mandolin and has appeared as a guest musician on dozens of great Rock albums. His mastery of Rock’s root forms – blues, country, gospel, folk, jazz, rockabilly, bluegrass and more – gave his projects a timelessness that always stood apart from the latest trends, and his eventual embrace of World Music gave them a rootlessness too. Ry Cooder has always been an influencer and an outlier at the same time.

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The new album The Prodigal Son is his first new record in six years, and it treads on familiar territory with a mix of old-time traditional blues and originals written by Cooder. The two advance tracks showcase the savvy, understated authenticity and the delicious guitar sounds that are his trademark. The title track, written in the 1930s, begins like it’s bubbling out of the ground before taking flight as rocking gospel blues. “Shrinking Man” is an original that reveals Cooder’s subtle sense of humor as well as his lifelong championing of society’s downtrodden little guys.

In a statement Cooder called the album “a deft commentary on our ailing moral state”, adding that:

“I do connect the political/economic dimensions with the inner life of people, since people are at risk and oppressed on all sides in our world today. There’s some kind of reverence mood that takes hold when you play and sing these songs. ‘Reverence’ is a word I heard my granddaughter’s nursery school teacher use, a Kashmiri woman. She said, ‘We don’t want to teach religion, but instill reverence.’ I thought that was a good word for the feeling of this music.”

Reverence is a word that should come to everyone’s mind when they listen to Ry Cooder. The Prodigal Son drops this Friday, May 11.

photo credit: Steve Proctor [wikipedia/commons/0/06/Ry_Cooder_19Aug2015_%282%29.jpg]



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