Pop: RY COODER Symphony Hall, Birmingham

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The Independent Culture
Ryland P Cooder must be cursing his luck: 25 years of making albums that sound like a series of PhD dissertations on American folksong, and his son turns out to be a drummer (at least, though, he got the revenge in first, naming the boy Joachim). With young Rosanne Lindley, it's the other way around; her father David is the Californian dad from hell, with a taste in shirts and trousers that must have made her cringe with embarrassment every time he picked her up from school. Long, shaggy hair growing down to his chest (and that's just the sideburns), clothes from Hawaiian thrift- shops and white patent leather slip-ons make Lindley look, well, different.

Once the music began, however, it was a true family affair, with the guitars (and there were lots and lots of them) of Cooder and Lindley backed by Joachim on percussion and, later in the show, Rosanne on vocals, Cooder fils beating the skins like a young Jim Keltner while the Lindley girl sang in a rich, bluesy growl that belied her years.

You could fondly imagine that the idea for this tour was as homespun as the music, the families just getting into their Airstream trailer (with a following motorcade of trucks for the guitars), and somehow ending up in Birmingham. But the set-up on stage suggested fiendish planning, the principals each seated beside a Black & Decker Workmate full of guitars of all shapes and sizes, and regularly attended by a special technician who fetched, carried and undertook first-line maintenance throughout the evening. Lindley, who made his name playing wonderfully fluid guitar solos behind Terry Reid and Jackson Browne in the Seventies, before going seriously ethnic, opened proceedings with a reggae number on a space-age electric 12-string (which then had to go to guitar hospital) before Cooder took over with "Jesus is on that Mainline".

They continued swapping the lead between them for two and a quarter hours without a break, moving from blues to country to Tex-Mex and Malagasy instrumentals. At times, as when Rosanne came on to sing the wonderful "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live", it was almost unbearably moving, the simple, heartfelt songs and natural sounds of lap-top steel and slide testifying to a real spirit of humanism. Cooder's version of the theme from Paris, Texas, which segued into Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man", was one of many highlights, his acoustic slide-guitar summoning up a vast, rolling desert for Harry Dean Stanton to walk off into.

Cooder - who is beginning to look disconcertingly like Gore Vidal - occasionally lost his voice and Lindley can't really sing at all, but it didn't seem to matter. The point was that they played so feelingly, so well, and with the certainty that they could, if they wished, play all night. At the end there was a 100 per cent standing ovation.

n Ry Cooder and David Lindley play RFH, London, Fri / Sat (booking: 0171- 928 8800)