Ry Cooder and Corridos Famosos ‘Live in San Francisco’ CD/vinyl (Nonesuch) 4/5

Ry Cooder and Corridos Famosos
Americana and all round roots specialist Ry Cooder returns with a live recording from the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco from 2011 that is a fitting retrospective on both an eclectic and illustrious career. The good news is that there is something from just about every stage from his highly diverse career with a few surprises along the way. Dustbowl blues is the order of the day on ‘Boomer’s Story’ which was the title track of an early 1970s album that is long appreciated by fans of acoustic folk-blues and the version here is suitably rustic in feel with a slide guitar solo. For a deeply soulful groove, the southern classic ‘The dark end of the street’ may have been immortalised by James Carr, but Ry’s interpretation here is ably assisted by a cast of crème de la crème session studio vocalists is a pretty darn fine attempt all the same. More recent incursions into the Mexican border tradition are explored on a Tex-Mex flavoured take on Woody Guthrie’s ‘Do re mi’ with accordion supplied by Flaco Jimenez and on ‘El Corrido de Jessie James’ performed here as a slow waltz. For a Spanish-language take, ‘Volver Volver’ takes some beating with vocals from Juliette Commagere, especially when it features superlative lyrical guitar showcased by the leader. Rounding matters off is a rocking rendition of ‘Wooly Bully’ and a folk-blues classic penned by Leadbelly, ‘Goodnight Irene’. Ry Cooder has maintained a consistently high level of artistic achievement throughout his career and this fine example of a typically rousing as well as reflective live performance merely reinforces that view.

Tim Stenhouse