Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ry Cooder Scores with "I, Flathead"

Originally posted on November 25, 2008

When it comes to electric guitar styling, Ry Cooder established himself in the late ‘60s as a formidable player and has been around the block since, with success as well as staying power. His latest release is in the form of a hard cover novelette and companion CD, I, Flathead: Kash Buk and the Klowns (Nonesuch). It is not designed as a guitar showcase, but there is plenty of his talent on display. A loose story line strings together the songs, and it's apparently related to the plot of the book (I’ll admit I haven’t read it yet). Some of his great slide work is in evidence, as well as some of his skillful and tasteful semi-picking finger articulations.

The lyrics center around a white-trash fellow, a fast-car driving, cash-strapped, hard-living guy and his tribulations. They have that melancholy, fictional-autobiographical tone of classic country music; it rings true without necessarily being strictly factual. And David Lynch's depravity-in-normality vibe comes to mind. The despair of the everyday life of an aging has-been or never has-been slob. . .

Cooder’s laconic vocal style and way with quirky songs are here in abundance. It’s equal parts retro, low-down country rock, blues drenched soundings, Mexicali influenced moments, old-timey flavors and all-around eccentric Cooder. He is the consummate artiste and it is nice to hear him again in this new release. I can’t vouch for the novelette, but it’s all about the music, ultimately, isn’t it?

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