Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Ry Cooder’s Genre Blender


Ry Cooder stopped touring on a regular basis several years ago, but every so often he likes to play at one of the best venues in the country, The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  I was lucky enough to see him there five years ago with Nick Lowe.

This is Cooder’s second live album.  The first one, Show Time was recorded at the same venue 36 years ago, and on this new release he is joined by two musicians who appeared on that album, singer Terry Evans and the amazing Tejano accordion player, Flaco Jiménez.

Asides from being one of the greatest slide guitarists and finger pickers in the world, Cooder is one of the great chroniclers and archivists of American traditional and popular music.  He has consistently in his 40 plus years of recording, and has brought seemingly disparate conglomerations of musicians together with brilliant results.  This new album recorded in 2011 over two nights at the end of the summer is no exception.

Backed by Corridos Famosos, which includes Jiménez; singers, Terry Evans, Arnold McCuller, and Juliette Commagere; Cooder’s son Joachim on drums; Robert Francis on bass and the ten-piece Mexican brass band La Banda Juvenil, the album is a totally joyous romp that is part a Cooder best of and a trip across the American landscape that combines Woody Guthrie, R&B, gospel, and Tex-Mex with one eye always on the blues. cooder

Two songs from Show Time, “School Is Out” and “Dark End of the Street,” are repeated, but the new versions are equally as good and actually don’t beg a comparison with the old ones.

Cooder’s two previous studio albums, Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down and Election Special were pointedly political, the former including the great track, “No Banker Left Behind,” and the latter released just in time for the 2012 campaign.  On the new album he’s slightly more subtle, but includes two original song from “Pull Up Some Dust,” “El Corrido de Jesse James,” in which Jesse James looks down from heaven and sees what Wall Street bankers are up to.  Jiménez weaves his accordion around Cooder’s vocal and when the horn sections comes in between verses, the result is somewhat astounding.  The other song, “Lord Tell Me Why,” sung by Terry Evans and Arnold McCuller is the funkiest song on the album and starts with the line: “Lord tell me why a white man ain’t worth nothin’ in this world no more.”

Two Woody Guthrie songs, long a part of Cooder’s repertoire, “Do Re Mi” and “Vigilante Man” are also included.  The great thing about Cooder singing Guthrie is he never imitates and knows how to make both songs now at least 70 years old totally relevant.

While the current American situation is alluded to in several songs, Cooder also knows how to have fun with “School Is Out,” and a cover of Sam The Sham’s “Wooly Bully.”  Wrapping the set up is Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene.”  Throughout the set Cooder plays truly impeccable guitar.  No one knows how to blend genres better, and this is one of those albums that gets better each time you hear it.

Peter Stone Brown is a freelance writer and singer-songwriter.  His site and blog can be found here:



Peter Stone Brown is a freelance writer and singer-songwriter.  His site and blog can be found here:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future