Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In praise of musical giving . . .

Hallelujah! Ry Cooder has always had a restless musical soul. He just gets that music gives us access to parts of a culture -- indeed, to parts of ourselves and each other -- that are just not reachable or translatable otherwise. And he has the industry clout to get his chameleon-esque compositions recorded and so bring them to the rest of us.

Ry Cooder in the '60's

In the 60s Ry Cooder was, among a lot of other things, a session musician with the Stones. In the 70s, he began his signature mining of forgotten or neglected musical genres -- black gospel, calypso, white country. His 1979 album Bop Till You Drop was the first digitally recorded pop album, which should be of great interest to any sound geeks reading this.

During the 1980s, Ry Cooder went to the movies. He began in 1984 by scoring the soundtrack for Paris, Texas.  Several movies later, he dubbed all the slide guitar for the 1986 movie, Crossroads, a take on the life of Delta blues man, Robert Johnson, whom Eric Clapton has called  "the most important blues singer that ever lived." And one who may, or may not, have colluded with the Devil to become that way.

The 1990s took Ry Cooder to World Music. His recordings during that decade mixed traditional American musical genres with contemporary African and Indian sounds. In the late 90s he produced  Buena Vista Social Club, and we were invited to acquaint ourselves with the music of Compay Segundo, Rubén González, and Ibrahim Ferrer.

Ry Cooder's home (if he's had time to establish one) must be littered with Grammys.

So, you say, this is all very interesting, why am I blogging about Ry Cooder for WMRA? Because his latest collaborative recording, done with the Chieftans, is currently listenable for free on NPR as one of their First Listen offerings. 

Ry Cooder (left) with Paddy Maloney of The Chieftans

The album is called San Patricio. It's being released around St. Patrick's Day for a reason. It (as lifted from the NPR interview) . . .
. . . commemorates a little-known connection between Mexicans and the Irish. During the Mexican-American War of the 1840s, a group of disaffected Irish-American conscripts led by Capt. John Riley crossed the border to fight with the Mexicans. Riley put together a battalion named the "San Patricio," deserted the U.S. Army and joined the Mexicans to fight on what he saw as the side of justice.
Heaven forbid, I write about music you can listen to for free. All I'll say is I listened yesterday, and was filled with gratitude, yet again, that our world contains Ry Cooder's restless musical soul.

And that NPR offers us the great musical gift of First Listens.

1 comment:

  1. We got a copy of the CD at the station so be expecting to hear songs from it on the Acoustic Cafe (Saturday 12-4pm & Sunday 8-11pm).