n Ry Cooder -- Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
Rating: 9 (out of 10)
Ry Cooder has put out many fine records over his long career and Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down ranks right up there with the best of them.
His first five solo albums on Reprise from 1970 to 1976 are a continuous string of masterpieces. On his eponymous debut, Into the Purple Valley, Paradise and Lunch, Boomer's Story and Chicken Skin Music, Cooder created his own unique fusion of blues, folk, country, gospel, rock and Tex-Mex tunes.
The roots musician has kept cooking with this mix ever since. There are no borders in his music although as an artist he is very cognizant of place. As a session player early on (for the likes of Jackie DeShannon, Taj Mahal, the Rolling Stones and Captain Beefheart) and as a leader of his own bands, Los Angeles and the surrounding southern California desert region have been a constant presence in everything he does. Like blood in the tracks it's part of the vibe -- these sounds were made in L.A.
Almost all of the tracks on Cooder's early seminal works were covers of other people's work that he rebuilt as he saw fit. Name another musician who could cover one of of Sleepy John Estes' idiosyncratic tunes and make it work. Timeless roots Americana operating both as documentation of things past and as contemporary art.
In the past decade Cooder has begun composing more of his own material with varying results. Some of his recent music for Nonesuch Records has lacked the dynamic of earlier work although Chavez Ravine's album-long leftist analysis of a working class Mexican-American neighbourhood in L.A. was a brilliant pastiche of everything he's done.
Cooder is completely back on his game for Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down with a funky, soulful set of 14 original tunes that veer all over the map. Opener "No Banker Left Behind" is a Depression-era Uncle Dave Macon stomper that takes its name from a Robert Scheer article published on the truthdig website about the 2008 economic meltdown.
Tracks like "El Corrido de Jesse James," "Humpty Dumpty World" and "John Lee Hooker for President" are Cooder at his best. Brilliant stuff.