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ALBUM REVIEW: Ry Cooder – The Prodigal Son

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Ry Cooder is the great circler, a musician who seems to have a hand in all manner of scenes and genres and the ability to drift between all of them seamlessly. He played on Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk, produced Buena Vista Social Club, scored film soundtracks and played guitar on The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers LPs to name just a few of his achievements. The Prodigal Son is his 17th solo album and ranks as one of his finest.

If you ever wanted a true definition of ‘Americana’, this would be a good place to start. Such is the blend of styles and cultures that Cooder brings to the table, weaving them together in three original songs and thrilling interpretations of songs by the likes of Blind Willie Johnson and Carter Stanley. He’s created a lush, rootsy collection of songs that creak and roll, tumble and thrill through blues, country folk, gospel, jazz and latin landscapes. 

Cooder is a master at ushering social, spiritual and political commentary into his songs without sounding like a protest rally address. Compassion, gentrification and the futility of greed all get a look-in through his musical lens of loose grooves, drums and percussion courtesy of his son Joachim. His ability to honour the past and still push the music forward creatively means he’s singing to both ghosts and future generations with authenticity and exquisite musicality.

Chris Familton

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