Ry Cooder, Election Special

Bill Murphy

By Bill Murphy

on 08.24.12 in Reviews

Election Special

Ry Cooder

Has Ry Cooder gone all Woody Guthrie? With his “California trilogy,” begun in 2005, he took on the state’s ugly treatment of immigrant farm laborers, among other thorny subjects; on last year’s Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, he called fat-cat bankers on the carpet. And now, with campaign season in full swing, Cooder girds himself to tackle all the hot-button issues of 2012 — and he hits them hard at the knees.

Hitting hot-button 2012 issues hard at the knees

“Mutt Romney Blues” is a scathing portrait of the GOP presidential candidate, set to an acoustic juke-joint stomp and told from the point of view, naturally, of the family dog. On the flip side, “Cold Cold Morning” is a gutbucket down-tempo blues that gets in the head of Barack Obama, set upon by “stray dog Republicans, always snapping at my heels.” To put it mildly, Cooder sounds riled up — his guttural rasp on “Kool-Aid,” a swirling nightmare of distorted slide guitar and big-footed drums (played throughout the album by his son Joachim), seethes with anger and despair. But he can also have fun with the exercise: “Going to Tampa” is an airy, countrified boogie that joyfully lampoons Tea Party delegates, while “Guantanamo” grooves like a late-’60s Rolling Stones studio jam. If Guthrie — or, for that matter, John Lee Hooker, who hovers in spirit over cuts like “Kool-Aid” — were alive today, he might just pick up his guitar and join in.