Album: Ry Cooder

Chávez Ravine, NONESUCH
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The Independent Culture

This is Cooder's first album in his own name since 1987's Get Rhythm, a hiatus filled by soundtrack commissions and world-music collaborations. It must have taken something special to tempt Cooder back. And indeed, Chávez Ravine is the culmination of his career, an album drawing together the strands for which he is renowned - empathy for ethnic and roots musics, facility for soundtrack evocation, fondness for Chicano culture, sympathy for the little guy - within a tight thematic structure. Chávez Ravine was a region of Los Angeles which, in the McCarthy era, was appropriated and given to a baseball magnate as the site for Dodger Stadium, the wishes of local Chicanos ridden over through a smear campaign and police bullying. Inspired by Don Normark's photographs of the Ravine community, Cooder has brought the story to life with the help of Chicano musicians such as Willie G and Lalo Guerrero, some brilliant jazz and rock players, audio clips of HUAC hearings, and choice period pieces like

This is Cooder's first album in his own name since 1987's Get Rhythm, a hiatus filled by soundtrack commissions and world-music collaborations. It must have taken something special to tempt Cooder back. And indeed, Chávez Ravine is the culmination of his career, an album drawing together the strands for which he is renowned - empathy for ethnic and roots musics, facility for soundtrack evocation, fondness for Chicano culture, sympathy for the little guy - within a tight thematic structure. Chávez Ravine was a region of Los Angeles which, in the McCarthy era, was appropriated and given to a baseball magnate as the site for Dodger Stadium, the wishes of local Chicanos ridden over through a smear campaign and police bullying. Inspired by Don Normark's photographs of the Ravine community, Cooder has brought the story to life with the help of Chicano musicians such as Willie G and Lalo Guerrero, some brilliant jazz and rock players, audio clips of HUAC hearings, and choice period pieces like "3 Cool Cats" and the lovely "Chinito Chinito". It's a wonderful creation that dares to care, a monument to a shameful chapter written out of American history but now stamped back in via Los Angeles's chief industry, entertainment. One of the albums of the year.

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