There we go. Ry Cooder has hit the target that many could see in the dark. The dig was prepared for a long time – his recent discography helps us to understand – and the shot went straight there where he was hit: the U.S. presidential election, politics and democracy in times of the great and endless crisis.
As a whole, he spoke us about the crisis last year, with the kaleidoscopic “Pull up some dust and sit down”, relying on marginal and protest genres such as blues, calypso, folk and inevitably dusty tones that recalled Woody Guthrie, the one who sang us – as no one has been able to do more – that of ’29.
Guthrie had embodied crisis in his music and in the look with which selected his subjects, to the point of not being able to give up the rambling that made its production unique. In the new “Election Special”, however, Cooder goes into detail and analyzes differences and exasperation, identifying lines of a direct representation.
Released by Nonesuch Records, a label that has produced in the U.S. “The story-faced man” and “Rȇveries,” the American records of Vinicio Capossela and Paolo Conte – and that includes the most interesting artists of the alt-folk world, as Wilko, Chris Thile, Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drop, Billy Bragg and T Bon Burnet – “Election Special” best represents the harshness of the political struggle and the turpitude of propaganda for the U.S. presidential election.
So Cooder, like Guthrie, incorporates elements of the crisis which burn and tear the more vulnerable and less guilty, that is, the voters, and experience and puts again to test the language of blues and rock roots and more gaunt, evoking at times also mythology. As in the song “Brother is gone”, mandolin and some rattle in a grave voice, where the Koch brothers – among the most active campaign contributors of the Republican candidate for president Mitt Rumney – meet the devil at a crossroads (“we met old Satan down where two roads cross “). Or as in “Cold Cold Feeling”, a blues and gaping acid in which a President Obama walks to the White House that sings like a shouter of the Mississippi, “cold cold felling ’cause everithing is going on wrong.”
The stylistic choice works, because the text and invectives are always on top and music – recorded almost all live with very few overdubs and played almost exclusively by Ry Cooder, with the exception of the percussion son Joachim, who accompanies him from time of the Buena Vista Social Club, and the harmonic Arnold McCuller – scratches as they know the ropes of guitars, banjos and mandolins jokes non-stop from an experienced musician and a sublime guitarist among the best in the world.
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