Ry Cooder: Election Special (Warners)

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Ry Cooder: Kool-Aid
Ry Cooder: Election Special (Warners)

With the Republicans calling up arch-conservative Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's monied-up running mate and the gob-smacking misspeak by Missouri congressman Todd Akin about "legitimate rape" (not to mention the oddball physiology he cited), Ry Cooder must be kicking himself that he went so early with this collection of overtly political songs.

Still, maybe the old fish-barrel adage might have held him back.

Although these broad brushstrokes -- a continuation in some sense from the folksy-framed previous album Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down -- often lack subtlety. Doubtless Cooder would argue these aren't times for nuance, but there's also a holier-than-thou element here (the menacing Kool-Aid a swipe at blind loyalty to poisonous ideologies) which doesn't sit well with the sometimes bluntly self-righteous lyrics.

And while we might applaud the sentiments (if you are of the liberal persuasion), the idea that songs have any real political impact has long been refuted by the evidence in front of our eyes. (Witness the number of musicians who worked/sang against Bush the Younger, and still the guy got re-elected.)

That of course shouldn't stop anyone from trying and here Cooder whacks out fierce music to accompany his seething rage (Guantanamo), and howls like an Elvis/Southern bluesman (Cold Cold Feeling about Obama alone in the Oval Office). 

What is lacking here (again, you can hear Cooder telling you why not) is the lacerating humour which was so infectious on Pull Up Some Dust. The Sarah Palin song Going to Tampa doesn't quite cut it.

There is, of course, terrific music here (Kool Aid is a killer, the folksy 90 And The 9 about fighting against military recruitment has a real Woody Guthrie quality) but while this is interesting, essential for Cooder no doubt, it also has a built-in obsolescence by being so specific in its targets, so is less timelessness than its Guthrie and Pete Seeger ancestors.

An album to admire and possibly nod in agreement with, but I guess I'll play it about as often as I do Neil Young's Living with War

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