The Fortnightly Playlist, September 9th, 2018

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m trying to get caught up on a lot the wealth of new releases from the past few months at this point in the year, and they just keep coming. This edition offers a look at new albums from Blood Orange, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Reed Turchi & His Kudzu Choir, Devotchka, Interpol, IDLES, and Mitski, as well as new singles from Clipping, Laura Gibson, Junius Meyvant, and Ty Segall.

I first heard Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears sometime around late 2013, and got really into his modern blues rock swagger and the tight band of excellent musicians he surrounded himself with. I got the chance to see them perform on last year’s Backlash tour, and now here they are with an excellent new record only a year and a half later. The band sounds better than ever, and I highly recommend their live show.

There’s good reason that I put Blood Orange right after Prince in the playlist this edition. Dev Hynes is a massively talented musician and producer. I first became aware of him back when he was still performing under the name Lightspeed Champion, and I still love the music that project produced. Blood Orange is a more diverse project, that also seems to have a more energetic and purposeful feel. Additionally, Hynes has written, produced, and collaborated with a wide array of other artists, and each time he returns to his own projects he brings this experience with him.

I’m hooked on this Marlowe record. I’ve included a couple tracks from it on playlists earlier this summer, but I just can’t get enough of this one. For me, I get a lot of throwback to classic hip-hop on this. It has a solid connection to soul and R&B, but has good dose of aggressive edge that you need in a good hip-hop record. There are several tracks that jump out to me, and I recommend giving the album a full listen, but my favorites here are Lost Arts, Thing We Summon, and Mayday.

Other favorites this edition include Reed Turchi & His Kudzu Choir, Amos Lee, Van Stee, and Laura Gibson.

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Tracklist:
Prince – 17 Days (Piano & A Microphone 1983 version)
Blood Orange – Saint
Foxing – Heartbeats
Van Stee – Blanket
Interpol – Stay In Touch
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Nothing But A Cliche
The Staggers & Jaggs – Ring The Bell
Reed Turchi & His Kudzu Choir – Listen to the Wind
Mitski – Come Into the Water
Laura Gibson – Tenderness
Junius Meyvant – High Alert
Ty Segall – I’m a Man
Clipping – Stab Him in The Throat
Fliptrix – No Time to Rewind
Marlowe – Mayday
Atropolis – Gaita NYC
Rubblebucket – What Life Is
BRONCHO – Boys Got To Go
IDLES – Samaritans
Olafur Arnalds – brot
Roo Panes – My Sweet Refuge
Tunng – Sleepwalking
Devotchka – Straight Shot
Jade Bird – Uh Huh
Breaks & Swells – Won’t Lose Hold
Amos Lee – Crooked

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The Fortnightly Playlist, August 26th, 2018

Well, the playlist is on the long side this edition, with well over an hour and a half runtime. I guess it was difficult trying to cut things down this time. There are some big new releases coming out right now. Just released Death Cab For Cutie, Fliptrix, and Cullen Omori, as well as some more releases right on the horizon like IDLES’ Joy As An Act Of Resistance coming out on Friday.

I’m excited for Eliza Shaddad’s debut full-length that is set for October. Shaddad has released a couple EP’s in the last few years, and there are a handful of singles available from the upcoming release. I was only recently made aware of her material, and she’s certainly a young artist to get excited about. I’ve especially enjoyed this track that I’ve included in this edition, “This Is My Cue”.

Moses Sumney is following up last year’s debut full-length, Aromanticism, with some of the most poignant songs to be released this year. It’s only 3 tracks, but I would put them right in with the best music of the year. I have to think that he’ll continue to reward his audience with excellent music for a long time to come. I highly recommend giving this new material, Black In Deep Red 2014, a listen. For me, it makes him one of my top artists to watch. Whatever comes next from him will be a huge.

Starting with “Rank & File” by Sumney, this playlist goes into a short back-and-forth between UK Hip-hop and US Hip-hop. I could discuss for a long time the strengths, similarities, differences, and the influences between them, but it’s probably better to just let the music speak for itself. My point here is to display the diverse strengths in hip-hop right now. There’s so much life in Hip-hop right now. Particularly, I want to highlight Fliptrix. Now to talk about Fliptrix, then you need to talk aobut High Focus Records. Fliptrix is also the CEO of the label, and has been instrumental in the careers of High Focus artists including several that I’ve included on this blog in the past. It’s well worth digging into Fliptrix’ full catalog including two full-lengths as one quarter of the group The Four Owls along with fellow High Focus artists, Verb T, Leaf Dog, and BVA. His new record, Inexhale, is an excellent, lyric-forward listen.

Other favorites this edition are BODEGA, Ben Khan, The Chamanas, WHY? and Dirty Projectors.

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Playlist:
Futuropaco – Bambino Tiranno
BODEGA – How Did This Happen?!
Kristin Hersh – No Shade in Shadow
Eliza Shaddad – This Is My Cue
Low – Disarray
Death Cab for Cutie – Northern Lights
Cullen Omori – Four Years
Moses Sumney – Rank & File
Smellington Piff, BVA, Scorzayzee – Ruled By the Numbers
Four Fists – Dork Court
Fliptrix, Ocean Wisdom, Onoe Caponoe – Inside The Ride
Jedi Mind Tricks – San La Muerte
Ben Khan – Ruby
Dirty Projectors – Break-Thru
The Chamanas – La Verdad
La Union – Tiempo
Jah Chango & Jarabe De Palo – Sofa de Cuero
Iron & Wine – Waves of Galveston
Let’s Eat Grandma – I Will Be Waiting
AUK5, Sudan Archives – Fairyway
WHY? – The Water (Kishi Bashi remix)
Sink Ya Teeth – Substitutes
Whitney Ballen – Fucking
Jose Gonzalez & The Brite Lites – Killing For Love
Deafheaven – You Without End
Cloud Nothings – The Echo of the World
IDLES – Great

The Fortnightly Playlist, August 12th, 2018

Well, it’s the late edition, isn’t it? There’s less than an hour left in August 12th. It has been a weekend full of great music thanks to the big SubPop 30th Anniversary party. I had the pleasure of seeing Yuno and The Afghan Whigs on Friday night, and on Saturday I got to see LVL UP, Moaning, Kyle Craft, Loma, Bully, Clipping, Fastbacks, Shabazz Palaces, Wolf Parade, and Beach House. I’ve included new material from a few of these, as well as some of the acts I missed.

There’s a lot of great artists to highlight, and it’s sometimes difficult to decide who to write a little extra about. It was easy to decide that Candi Staton should be highlighted. At 78 yrs old, Candi Staton is set to release her 30th studio album. Just let that sink in a bit, and then listen to this song I’ve included this edition. Her voice hasn’t lost an ounce of its power, and she’s an absolute inspiration.

I’m always excited to get new Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears tunes, and the 3 singles he’s released recently are no exception. Their blend of blues and rock with swagger is always tons of fun, and they play a simply awesome live show. It’s been less than 2 yrs since his last record, so a new record and a big fall tour is exciting news.

Other favorites… still really loving this Marlowe album, enjoying these new singles from Mudhoney, Revel in Dimes, Metric and LVL UP.

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Tracklist:
Candi Staton – Confidence
Marlowe – Tales from the East
Santigold – Gold Fire
Yuno – No Going Back
Frankie Cosmos – Apathy
LVL UP – Orchard
Mudhoney – Paranoid Core
Mark Lanegan – Scarlett
David Bazan – Thread
The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here [Missing Face]
Clipping. – Block
Sims, Air Credits, ICETEP – No Waves
Metric – Dressed to Suppress
Mitski – Two Slow Dancers
Revel In Dimes – Treat Me Nice
Phosphorescent – New Birth in New England
Guided By Voices – You Own the Night
Saintseneca – Ladder to the Sun
Death Cab for Cutie – Autumn Love
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Face in the Scene
Disclosure, Fatoumata Diawara – Ultimatum

In All Our Grunginess…

This week is a massive celebration of the Seattle music-scene. It’s actually a dual celebration. Basically, this is music insanity week in Seattle.

Celebration 1: Pearl Jam Home Shows.
When Pearl Jam announced their tour this year they branded it as a sports team would… Home and Away shows. Sorry if you were expecting “Home Show” to feature a new furniture line (upholstered with old flannel shirts, of course). The Home Shows have some particularly special aspects to them. As part of their announcement, the band announced their intention to address the out-of-control homelessness in Seattle. The region’s homeless population is now 3rd largest in the country, with over 12,000 people living without shelter on any given night. In addition to spotlightling over 100 non-profits working locally, the band is giving generously of their own money and working with local businesses for promotion (as I write this, I’m sipping a Pearl Jam Home Show pale ale made by Georgetown Brewery). The two Home Shows (August 8th and 10th) at Safeco Field sold out in minutes. On August 8th, over 70 Seattle restaurants will be donating percentages of their sales. For more information on the mission of The Home Shows, you can find places to donate and volunteer HERE. What Pearl Jam have done here is not just see what the band and their fans could do to alleviate homelessness, but they’ve managed to gather over 100 local businesses to join in this cause.

Celebration 2: SubPop’s 30th Anniversary.
If there’s a label that could most distinctly be connected to the Seattle scene and sound, then it is SubPop. They found success by introducing the world to now household names like Soundgarden and Nirvana, but, of course, the story has more twists and turns than that. The first “grunge” album to be released was Green River’s debut EP Dry as a Bone, but the band, meant to be SubPop’s main act, broke up not long after. The good news was one of the two bands to come out of Green River, called Mudhoney, would sign with SubPop (The other band would eventually become a band that would sell out two shows at Safeco Field this week as part of a massive benefit to alleviate homelessness). Mudhoney’s first single was a hit on the Indie circuit, and that was enough to keep the label going after being nearly bankrupt. Mudhoney will be among the bands playing this weekend at the free anniversary party at Alki Beach along with many others performing over the course of the weekend. I’ll be in the city for the weekend hitting the SubPop showcase edition of KEXP’s Concerts at the Mural in Seattle center on Friday, and I’ll be volunteering at the SubPop anniversary party on Saturday. Check out the full event schedule HERE.

With all this happening this week, I decided to put together a little playlist including Pearl Jam and something from the bands playing the SubPop events.  There’s some muddy guitar sounds coming at you on this one.

Tracklist:
Pearl Jam – Breakerfall
Mudhoney – Into the Drink
Moaning – Tired
Bully – Trying
Fastbacks – On The Wall
Hot Snakes – This Mystic Decade
Pearl Jam – Whipping
The Afghan Whigs – Algiers
Wolf Parade – What Did My Lover Say?
Shabazz Palaces – Shine a Light
Clipping. – True Believer
Beach House – Myth
Yuno – No Going Back
Kyle Craft – Eye of a Hurricane
Father John Misty – Real Love Baby
Mass Gothic – Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me
Loma – Joy
Beach House – Lemon Glow
LVL Up – Hidden Driver
Jo Passed – Glass
Pissed Jeans – The Bar is Low
Metz – Cellophane
Afghan Whigs – Arabian Heights
Wolf Parade – You’re Dreaming
Kyle Craft – Heartbreak Junky
Fastbacks – Goodbye Bird
Bully – Running
Pearl Jam – Lukin
Mudhoney – Douchebags on Parade

The Fortnightly Playlist, July 29th, 2018

I’m super excited to share this edition with you all. There is so much new music out to choose from that this just had to be a great one. I did wonder at some points how I’d fit it all in, but somehow here it is. There are collaborations, some long-serving legends, and one fond farewell.

After 18 yrs, Minus the Bear have announced they are bringing the band to a close. Fans will get one more EP from the band before they wrap things up completely, and this single, Fair Enough, is the first track released from that upcoming farewell release. Always a talented group, it has been quite a journey seeing them go from a quirky band with crazy song titles (Monkey!!!Knife!!!Fight!!!, I Lost all My Money At The Cock Fights, and Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked) to the mature veterans they are now.

A year of following the Doomtree crew means a surprising number of releases in a year. Of course, I highlighted Dessa’s Chime early on this year, and Lazerbeak’s collaboration with Longshot was featured last month as well. This edition features 3 new Doomtree releases. P.O.S. and Astronautalis are back with a new Four Fists single, and are teasing a full-length release all over social media. I know they are busy with all kinds of other projects, but this project is too good to be limited to 2 songs every 5 years! Sims has a new album coming as well with Air Credits and ICETEP, and the singles released so far sound amazing. Cecil Otter has a new track released on the Power of Love benefit album. There are a ton of great artists featured on that project, so definitely check it out.

This new Soft Science record, Maps, is an impressive one. I decided to include the opening track, “Undone”, on this edition, but there are so many good ones here. I don’t really think that it has a weak track on it! It covers a good amount of ground, and is well worth checking out.

I have so many favorites in this list. Son Lux, Marlowe, IDLES, The Coup, Durand Jones & The Indications, The Coup, Mark Lanegan… and definitely this amazing collaborative track with Bryce Dessner, Justin Vernon, S. Carey, and So Percussion.

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Tracklist:
Cat Power – Wanderer
Gang Gang Dance – J Tree
Minus the Bear – Fair Enough
IDLES – Danny Nedelko
The Hold Steady – Star 18
Soft Science – Undone
Son Lux – Dream State
Simian Mobile Disco – Defender
Sims, Air Credits, ICETEP – Octadant, Eye in the Sky
Four Fists – Nobody’s Biz
Phonte – Euphorium (Back to the Light)
Marlowe – Lost Arts
Durand Jones & The Indications – Make a Change
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
Wajatta – Runnin’
The Coup – Level It Up
Cecil Otter, Solid Gold, Aero Flynn – Power of Love
Bryce Dessner, Justin Vernon, So Percussion, S. Carey – Music for Wood and Strings
Wild Pink – Lake Erie
Black Belt Eagle Scout – Soft Stud
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Cross My Heart
Knife Knights – Give You Game
Mark Lanegan – With Animals
Joy Formidable – The Wrong Side

The Fortnightly Playlist, July 15th, 2018

Some good summer songs in the mix this edition. New albums from Jenn Champion, Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz and Damien Jurado, and new singles from upcoming releases by Stars, Curtis Harding, Fliptrix, and a joint effort from Iggy Pop and Underworld.

First off, I was able to see one of my favorite artists ever this week: Ry Cooder. Brilliant performer, and it was a really great show. I included another track off his latest record, The Prodigal Son. I also included tracks from his son, Joachim’s, new record as he opened the show and played drums for Ry as well. The HamilTones joined Ry for most of his set, and played some of their original songs as well. The brilliant vocal trio added so much to Ry’s set, and so I’ve included a song from their latest record as well.

This upcoming record from Underworld and Iggy Pop should be an interesting one. The Godfather of Punk teaming up with the ’90’s underground techno legends actually have released a few tracks from the record, and it’s a promising combination of talents. This particular song I’ve included, “Get your Shirt”, might potentially be “just the audio of Iggy working the merch table at an Underworld gig”. I wish I could say that was my joke, but it is not.

Other particular favorites this edition include Jenn Champion, Leaf Dog, Reed Turchi & His Kudzu Choir, and Curtis Harding. Enjoy!

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Tracklist:
Stars – Ship to Shore
Jenn Champion – Time to Regulate
Gorillaz – Tranz
Underworld & Iggy Pop – Get Your Shirt
Alt-J, Pusha T – In Cold Blood (Twin Shadow Version)
Leaf Dog – The Sky
Fliptrix – New Breath
Curtis Harding – It’s Not Over
The Hamiltones – Money Can’t Buy You Love
Ry Cooder – Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right
Reed Turchi & His Kudzu Choir – Honey Honey
William Elliott Whitmore – Fear of Trains
Damien Jurado – The Last Great Washington State
Joachim Cooder – Because the Moonlight
Jenn Champion – Coming For You
Mogwai – We’re Not Done
Stars – One Day Left
Arctic Monkeys – Four Out of Five
Macaco – Valientes

The Fortnightly Playlist, July 1st, 2018

 

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends and readers. I realized that this edition was landing right on Canada Day, and I that there weren’t any Canadian artists in this list. Then I realized there was a new single out from one of my favorite artists, Dan Mangan, so that became something of a special, last-minute inclusion.

Arthur Buck is a project that includes a couple long-time favorites, Joseph Arthur and Peter Buck (R.E.M.). The pair have been longtime friends ever since Arthur opened for a string of shows for R.E.M. in 2000. As NPR says in their review, this first collaboration project is full of opening doors. This is a pair of musicians that seems to have wide listening habits, and that comes out in this project. They seem to both bring in many influences, but also carve out their own way in a culture and music industry that can seem chaotic and overwhelming.

There have been plenty of reunions in the last couple years of bands that saw success in the ’90’s. Belly are among the latest, and I love this new album. They saw a lot of initial success with their Slow Dust EP and their first full-length, Star, but the band began to splinter and the negativity within the group led to a lackluster follow-up. Tanya Donelly has said in interviews that there was some regret that they hadn’t made more music, but at the time the hurdles were too great. Now after 12 yrs, fans get a new Belly album.

Favorite listening in this edition definitely includes Arthur Buck and Belly, but also Saintseneca, Dan Mangan, Versing, Sims, and The Milk Carton Kids.

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tracklist:
Arthur Buck – Are You Electrified?
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Shiggy
Belly – Mine
Jayhawks – Everybody Knows
Saintseneca – Frostbiter
Kali Uchis – Nuestro Planeta
Maria Usbeck – Bosque De Bambu
The English Beat – How Can You Stand There?
Illuminati Hotties – Shape of My Hands
Now, Now – Set It Free
Tunng – Crow
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Mainland
Sims, Air Credits, ICETEP – Hologramme
Loyle Carner, Tom Misch – Damselfly
Florence + The Machine – Sky Full of Song
Adan Jodorowsky – Color Cafe
Dan Mangan – Troubled Mind
Milk Carton Kids – Just Look at Us Now
Amos Lee – No More Darkness, No More Light
Versing – Silver Dollar
Nine Inch Nails – I’m Not From This World

The Fortnightly Playlist, June 17th, 2018

Well folks, we’re a little on the late side this time around, and who knows if my internet will allow me to even post this as it has been extremely temperamental today. This edition gets into international music quite a bit. Iceland, Canary Islands, Bulgaria, India, and Benin are all represented in this edition of the Fortnightly. There are some big new singles from Gorillaz and Death Cab for Cutie, and there are really exciting new albums from Angelique Kidjo, Lazerbeak & Longshot, Busdriver, Brownout, and M. Ward.

Funk/Latin powerhouses, Brownout, are taking on another classic. After releasing 2 albums of funk interpretations of Black Sabbath (Brownout presents Brown Sabbath I and II), the group is now taking on  hip-hop legends, Public Enemy. In the new record, Fear of a Brown Planet, we are treated to complete reworkings of many Public Enemy classics. This is an amazingly fun album, and it allows you to see some of this classic material in a new way.

In the last few years, I’ve come to think of hip hop as the genre that seems to be pushing boundaries the most in music. Maybe it is just the current cycle we are in, but, in terms of bold creativity, hip-hop is the current leader. Busdriver’s latest album, electricity is on our side, is a perfect example. The album is incredible. It’s somehow MC at a danceclub, and jazz at a winebar at the same time. Busdriver, and other artists like him, are pushing Hip-hop into all kinds of territory that people don’t expect. Because of the borrowing culture that has surrounded it from early on, it’s a genre that seems to have no limit to what it can draw into itself. electricity is on our side can seem a bit out there on the first listen. Maybe it is an acquired taste. Maybe some will find it inaccessible in its complexity. I think it may be one of the best records of the year.

I have a lot of favorites in this edition, but there are a few that have struck me particularly. Van Stee, Angelique Kidjo, Mazzy Star, Kiran Ahluwalia, Lazerbeak & Longshot, and Courtney Marie Andrews are some great ones this time around.

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Tracklist:
Van Stee – Here Comes The Fire
Gorillaz – Humility
Longshot, Lazerbeak – Just Dance
Brownout – Fight the Power
Angelique Kidjo – The Great Curve
Kiran Ahluwalia – Khafa
Busdriver – I been there
Eptos Uno – Peso Pesado
Olafur Arnalds – re:member
The Mystery of The Bulgarian Voices – Sluntse
Mazzy Star – Still
Courtney Marie Andrews – Long Road Back To You
Luke Winslow-King – Blue Mesa
The National Reserve – New Love
M. Ward – Miracle Man
Lord Huron – Secret of Life
Death Cab for Cutie – Gold Rush
Desert Mountain Tribe – Spyders
Olafur Arnalds – unfold
Dat Garcia – Anfibio (Space People Remix)
Pablo Fierro – Timanfaya
Rosalia – Malamente
Longshot, Lazerbeak – Parades
Nocando – She Went to War
Busdriver – pull the sky closer

The Fortnightly Playlist, June 3rd, 2018

So if you’ve been reading this lately, then you know how much I’ve been talking about Ry Cooder’s new record. This edition, I’m also including a track from his son, Joachim’s, new record, Fuschia Machu Pichu. I’ve been listening to this record a lot lately, and especially this track that I’ve included “Everyone Sleeps In the Light”. Also in this edition, new albums from Wooden Shjips, Chvrches, Sudan Archives, and Neko Case. There are new singles from Dawes, Mitski, and Rubblebucket as well.

Black Thought has never really gone out on his own much, and taken on projects outside of The Roots. Streams of Thought Vol. 1 is an impressive release. The 5-song EP is produced by 9th Wonder and The Soul Council, and covers a range of topics. Of course, Black Thought is well known as a great lyricist, and this EP really highlights his abilities distinctly.

I’ve written in the past about Sudan Archives, and I was so happy to see more new music from her this year. The genre-defying violinist is back again with a new 6-song EP called Sink. She blends various techniques on the violin, but throughout her music you here traces of the North African styles that are particularly influential to her. It’s difficult to say what her music is. It’s R&B, but centered around the violin. It’s pop, but it’s eclectic and unline any other pop music you can point to. It is complex and layered, but uncluttered and simple. She’s building a sound so distinctly her, and I absolutely love it.

Other highlights that I haven’t discussed here are the new Neko Case, Parquet Courts, Halo Maud, and Dawes. There is also plenty to look forward to yet this year. The new Angelique Kidjo is one that I’m looking forward to this coming week. I’m thinking I might write an extra something toward the end of this month about my favorites in the first half of the year. I’d be curious to know what my readers have enjoyed so far this year as well.

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Joachim Cooder – Everyone Sleeps in the Light
Sudan Archives – Pay Attention
J. Cole – KOD
Black Thought – 9th vs. Thought
Halo Maud – Tu Sais Comme Je Suis
Neko Case – Last Lion of Albion
The Joy Formidable – Dance of the Lotus
Chvrches – Forever
Rufus Du Sol – No Place
Sin Fang – Wasted
Mitski – Geyser
Wooden Shjips – Staring at the Sun
John Prine – God Only Knows
Thunderpussy – All In
Wand – Perfume
Parquet Courts – Total Football
Rubblebucket – Fruity
Kung Foo Grip – Mic Check
Planet Asia – Executive Criminals
Sudan Archives – Escape
Ry Cooder – Jesus and Woody
Gretchen Peters – The Boy from Rye
The Jayhawks – Everybody Knows
Dr. Dog – Go Out Fighting
Dawes – Living In The Future

Ry Cooder

Where do I even start to talk about my all-time favorite guitar player? Where do you start to discuss an artist that has done it all? Well, let’s start with the fact that he released his 17th solo album last week… well, that’s a bit misleading. He has also been invloved to varying degrees with over a dozen movie soundtracks, and some of them are entirely his compositions. He’s also collaborated with such prominent international artists as Ali Farka Toure, V.M. Bhatt, and The Buena Vista Social Club. When he was just 17, he was in a band with Taj Mahal. He collaborated with the Rolling Stones, and Keith Richards may or may not have stolen certain riffs from him that became hits. But now I’ve put everything out of order, so let’s just start in properly.

Ry Cooder:

In 1965/66 a group of young unknowns recorded about an album’s worth of material. The young men, known as The Rising Sons, were all remarkably talented, but, all being very young, they hadn’t developed the leadership or musical direction to continue. They all went on to have long careers in music, but the most prominent names in the group were Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. At the time of performing and recording with The Rising Sons, Ry was still a teenager. Ry was then involved early on with Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, and played lead guitar on Safe As Milk. Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) was notoriously difficult to work with, and Ry was not even the first to leave the group noting various outbursts and erratic behavior.

The Rolling Stones albums Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers included contributions from Ry as a session player. Ry is heard on mandolin on Love in Vain and on slide guitar on Sister Morphine. Those are the official credits… It is often claimed that Keith Richards snagged some Ry Cooder riffs for Honky Tonk Women. During the Let it Bleed sessions, some of the Stones members recorded a series of jam sessions with Ry and Nicky Hopkins. Those sessions were later released as Jamming With Edward! 

1970 marked the start of Cooder’s solo career. Interestingly, at a time when original songs were driving the industry, Ry opted to mainly feature re-arranged and modernized folk, blues and gospel tunes written by the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and Alfred Reed. Among his first several records, there are only a few original songs, but he did develop a distinct sound. The music is diverse, and he displayed a real talent for arranging blues, gospel, country, calypso, tex-mex, and Hawaiian music. He re-enlivened and electrified the songs of American folk artists of all styles. During this period, he would continue to be credited as a studio musician for many other artist such as Van Morrison, Arlo Guthrie and Gordon Lightfoot. Ry released 8 records by the end of 70’s.

In the 80’s, Ry turned his attention to film soundtracks. So, in addition adding 3 new solo records during this period, he also worked on the soundtracks for 10 films. The most prominent of these are Southern Comfort (1981), Paris, Texas (1985), Music from Alamo Bay (1985), and Crossroads (1986). Throughout the 80’s, Ry toured with an all-star group of musicians that he had collected during his now long career. The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces featured Flaco Jimenez on Accordian and vocal quartet: Terry Evans, Willie Greene Jr, Arnold McCuller, and Bobby King.

The next decade brought change again. While his contributions to movie soundtracks continued at a solid pace, Ry’s solo career quieted. He turned his energy to collaborative efforts that broadened far beyond anything he’d done before. He began to work on world music crossover projects. The first of these, Meeting by the River (1993), was with V.M. Bhatt. The Hindustani classical musician is a virtuoso of the Mohan veena. They blended beautifully together, and also was the first time that Ry’s son, Joachim, would collaborate with his father on percussion. Meeting by the River won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1993.

Talking Timbuktu (1994) was a collaboration between Ry and Ali Farka Toure. Toure is one of Africa’s most renowned artists. He is largely considered to be the father of modern music in Mali, and he is the inspiration  for such artists as Songhoy Blues and Bombino. Ali Farka Toure would have a lasting effect on Cooder, and he would later relate in interviews how much he learned from Toure during their work together. Talking Timbuktu won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1994.

In 1996, Ry traveled to met up with British producer, Nick Gold, in Cuba (via Mexico due to the US trade and travel embargo). The two gathered and organized a large group of performers to record an album of Cuban son music. The album, Buena Vista Social Club, was met with high praise from critics, and became a landmark around the world that spurred interest in Cuban music. It charted in over a dozen European countries, topped the latin charts in the US, and launched the international careers of several Cuban performers. Buena Vista Social Club won a Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance in 1997. Ry had to pay a $25,000 dollar fine for violating the US embargo with Cuba.

Manuel Galban was another connection that Ry made during his time in Cuba, and the pair had discussed the possibility of a Cuban electric guitar band bringing to life the 1950’s atmosphere. The result was Mambo Sinuendo. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric, electric guitar, mostly instrumental record. Mambo Sinuendo won Best Pop Instrumental Album.

In 2005, Ry returned to his solo career with what is sometimes called his California Trilogy. Chavez Ravine was his first solo release since 1987, and it was clear that his diverse experience since had changed his musical identity. It’s a concept album and a historical album based around a Mexican-American community that was demolished to build public housing. Eventually, what was actually build there was the Dodgers stadium as part of their move from Brooklyn. The record incorporates chicano-rock, and latin-jazz into Ry’s sound, and it dives into more modern sounds as well. Chavez Ravine was nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy-award, but did not win.

My Name is Buddy is perhaps the wildest idea for a concept album, and yet it is drawn into focus on relatable and accessible themes. The songs relate stories from the viewpoints of characters Buddy Redcat, Lefty Mouse and Reverend Tom Toad, but on American history to tell of labor strikes, farm failures, hobos and trains. It was a sharp turn from Chavez Ravine, and centers around bluegrass, tonkytonk, americana-folk, and country. My Name is Buddy is the first album in which Ry either wrote or co-wrote every song. The album earned him another grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, but again did not take the award.

Stylistically, I, Flathead lands somewhere in between the previous two records, and rounds out the California Trilogy of concept records. The story is of salt-flat racer and country musician named Kash Buk. The tex-mex, country rock, and roots rock follow a story, but also have the feel like a romance for American car culture. With these 3 records, Ry had shown how much he had grown as a songwriter and arranger since his solo career in the 70’s and 80’s. He was writing much more of the music, and he was incorporating and exploring more styles than before.

Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down was a straightforward americana-folk album with socio-political themes you might expect from a modern Woody Guthrie. The album kicks off immediately with “No Banker Left Behind”, which sets a strong tone in a culture that has hit recession, market-crash, and big business bailouts. The protest element is present in the record, with songs about the dragging war and the difficulties for the working-class. Following up Pull Up Some Dust…, Ry came out with Election Special. It was full of themes that swirled around the 2012 presidential election. The rugged blues-rock and folk record included some scathing political cuts on tracks like “The Wall Street Part of Town”, “Guantanamo”, and “Take Your Hands Off It”, but still from his usual Woody guthrie-esque, working-man perspective.

And so finally, here we are up to the present day. Earlier this month, Ry’s latest record, The Prodigal Son, was released. For the first time since returning to his solo career, Ry is again drawing on the American folk and blues canon for most of the songs, and there are few original songs. That said, they all sound original. Ry’s encyclopdic knowledge of music allows him to draw from so many sources. He reinterprets the songs and draws them into a collection that helps you see them in new light. The new record has more of a gospel sound than perhaps anything he’s done before. Songs by Blind Alfred Reed, The Pilgrim Travelers, and Blind Willie Johnson are brought in along side a few originals to make a cohesive whole. While in interviews, Ry has said that this is less political and more a “just play your guitar” record, it still is an album that is focused and purposeful. The gospel messages in these tunes could be read as a damning indictment of our present culture. Ry has managed somehow to draw on all his experience and release what may be one of his best records ever.

I think Ry is a vastly underappreciated musician. You won’t find many people who have challenged themselves with diverse styles this way. You won’t find many musicians who have changed with every new record to this degree. And there are precious few who could come through a career so long without ever forgetting their working-class roots. Ry has a huge tour this summer and fall. His son, Joachim, has a new record (Fuschia Machu Pichu) this year as well, and will be opening as well as accompanying his father on drums.

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