Ry Cooder: My Name is Buddy (Warners)

 |   |  1 min read

Ry Cooder: Sundown Town
Ry Cooder: My Name is Buddy (Warners)

Albums under Ry Cooder's name once only sold in the hundreds. But these days -- through high profile soundtracks such as Paris, Texas, The Long Riders and Trespass, internationally acclaimed work with the Buena Vista Social Club, and superb albums with the likes of fellow guitarist Manuel Galban (Mambo Sinuendo) and the late Ali Farka Toure from Mali (Talking Timbuktu) -- Cooder has become something close to a household name.

His last album, Chavez Ravine, was a concept album rooted in Mexican American music, and this new album is even more ambitious -- although in some places it reaches back to the folk, blues and r'n'b styles of some of his early solo albums such as Into the Purple Valley and Chicken Skin Music for its musical sources. But it also continues the idea of a large scale concept in the manner of Chavez Ravine.

My Name is Buddy takes the form of an allegory about an older, Depression-era America in which three anthropomorphic fellow travellers -- a cat called Buddy, a left-wing mouse, and Reverend Tom Toad -- make a journey of political and self-discovery in the backroads of America at the time of the union movement, the Dust Bowl, Hank Williams and the Klan.

Smart folks will spot the Steinbeck references, and the accompanying booklet has a parallel story of pointed anecdotes by Cooder about this imaginative, fable-like journey (in addition to the lyrics), and complimentary artwork by Vincent Valdez. (Animated movie anyone?)

With Chieftain Paddy Maloney, Van Dyke Parks, Pete Seeger, accordion player Flaco Jiminez, and Jim Keltner, My Name Is Buddy becomes a series of parables about the lost promise of America. And through music which touches folk, country, gospel and even lounge jazz, the narrative becomes a discussion of the spirit of the working class, and a condemnation of those who profit by its labour.

It might seemed rooted in the past, but it has powerful contemporary resonances. Cooder is smart enough to makes the album amusing also (the pig called J Edgar, the celebratory songs) but the lyrics, while memorable and often simple, are loaded.

A big one, in every sense of the word.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

The Kingsbury Manx: Bronze Age (Odessa/Southbound)

The Kingsbury Manx: Bronze Age (Odessa/Southbound)

Here is one/another of those indie bands which will perhaps only connect when they play a Laneway or some alt.festival. This snappy, pop-conscious and throughly enjoyable North Carolina... > Read more

The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (Carpark)

The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (Carpark)

Let's be very clear here: This local four-piece doesn't reinvent the wheel. But Elsewhere is of the unshakable opinion that bristling power-pop doesn't require any kind of overhaul, just that... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Cowboy Junkies: State Trooper (1986)

Cowboy Junkies: State Trooper (1986)

When the world started becoming very noisy around the time of grunge, the Cowboy Junkies out of Canada had the oldest trick in any public speaker's book. When everyone else is shouting, you speak... > Read more

NIXON IN CHINA REVISITED (2105): History as theatre

NIXON IN CHINA REVISITED (2105): History as theatre

Although it is his autobiography and he's allowed to exclude whomever and whatever he wants, it did seem odd that Philip Glass would not have mentioned John Adams' opera Nixon in China in his... > Read more