Album: Ry Cooder, Election Special (Nonesuch)


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The Independent Culture

With Election Special, Ry Cooder extends the outraged political perspective of last year’s outstanding Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down into election year, with another set of what he called that album’s “simple tools for citizens under siege”.

But with the clock ticking down to 6 November, the tone here is more robust than that album’s thoughtful reflections on history and poverty, taking its cue rather from the ribald pillorying of conservatives in tracks like “No Banker Left Behind” and “I Want My Crown”.

Cooder employs demotic, populist forms – notably variations of the blues – to carry his broadsides. “Mutt Romney Blues”, about how you can judge a man by the way he treats his dog (Romney tied his to the roof of the family car when going on vacation), opens proceed-ings with a ramshackle but infectious cakewalk blues, Cooder’s slide guitar animated by the ingenious percussive bed devised by his son Joachim.

The swaggering blues march “The Wall Street Part Of Town” – a mythical place where your efforts are well rewarded – blends mandolin and streaks of slide guitar, while “Kool-Aid”, about the dangers of drinking from a poisoned chalice, considers the quandary of George Zimmerman (who killed the unarmed black youth in a gated community) in a fatalistic manner: don’t think that just because the law supports your carrying a gun, it will necessarily benefit your life.

Unlike some musicians, Cooder is upfront about his support for Obama: in “ Cold Cold Feeling”, he imagines the President pacing at night, assailed on all sides by rightwing adversaries: “I got a cold, cold, feeling that Jim Crow’s coming round once more”. And in “The 90 And The Nine”, he comments about the occupation of peacetime by the discourse of conflict. But at least Americans have a Bill Of Rights, in the defence of which Cooder closes the album, warning, “ Take Your Hands Off It”.

We should be so lucky.

Download: Mutt Romney Blues; The Wall Street Part Of Town; Cold Cold Feeling; Kool-Aid