Ry Cooder: I, Flathead (Warners)

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Ry Cooder: Steel Guitar Heaven
Ry Cooder: I, Flathead (Warners)

Right, I'm not going to pretend this is easy to follow, but it's Ry Cooder so it's worth the effort.
This album apparently completes the trilogy of Californian albums Cooder started with Chavez Ravine and My Name is Buddy, but this one is slightly more problematic in that it comes from the perspective of an imaginary musician called Kash Buck (ho ho) who plays roadhouses and bars with his band the Klowns.
Located in some imagined 50s, the songs (musically and lyrically) reference oldtime country, Hawaiian steel guitar and country swing from the previous decades, but also the contemporary rock'n'roll/car/movie culture -- and earthy blues, Hispanic sounds and more.
There is a narrative thread too which is revealed in the very funny novella which comes with the limited edition deluxe edition, and it is full of crazy references to drag racing aliens, politics, Latino and Samoan street gangs of LA . . .
This is quite an integrated if surreal piece of work -- but if you choose to put all that aside and just dive into the album there are rewards and pleasures aplenty.
Cooder also obliquely references areas of his own career in the cherry-picking of styles and stylistic devices, and there is a rich vein of humour that also pulls this together. And some contemporary references too.
Equally there are moving songs here which remind you of the emotional depth of those two previous albums.
Some will happily get this to complete the trilogy, but if those other albums went past you then it is quite safe to pick up this one and immerse yourself in its enjoyable and entertainingly encyclopediac knowledge of pop, rock, blues and much, much more.
As Ian Dury once noted, "there ain't 'alf been some clever bastards". 

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