In a previous post, I talked about Ry Cooder, a guitarist – especially slide – who’s been what I like to call a journeyman for about as long as I can remember. The description of the genres he covers as stated in Wikipedia should give you some flavor of what he’s all about: Americana, roots rock, folk, blues, Tex-Mex, country, gospel, world music.
That laundry list – while accurate – doesn’t really do justice to the sounds that Cooder conjures up. I’d never seen him live before and was greatly anticipating his show. I wasn’t at all familiar with the Hamiltones but for reasons I’ll get to, I was so glad he invited them. They added not only gospel but some damn fine Philly soul.
The show opened up with Cooder’s son Joaquin. He came out wearing one of those wool hats, sat down and played a variety of odd instruments, none of which I recognized. Zithers? Maybe a drum machine? He was joined by a sax player.
The music was odd but weirdly rhythmic and hypnotic. The problem is that Joaquin cannot sing and so, with his hat and beard and weird instruments and overall demeanor, he came across more as some guy on the street playing for spare change. Fortunately, he later redeemed himself by joining his father’s band and doing some excellent drumwork.
Cooder has a fine new album out called The Prodigal Son which Christian reviewed and which we spent some time discussing. He played not only some of those tunes but also stuff from older albums like Bop Till You Drop. Also some Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell.
This was flat-out one of the best nights of music I’ve seen recently. Just a great show full of terrific, soulful blues and gospel. (I think Ry’s heart lies with those two more than anything else and maybe moreso at the intersection of those genres.)
I didn’t video Ry that night (wish I had) but here’s a Blind Willie Johnson tune called “Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right.” It’s live in the studio as, I guess, a promotion for the new album:
The reason I say I wish I had videoed at least one song is because the addition of the Hamiltones – a three-man gospel group – elevated Ry’s overall sound to one of warmth and beauty. And church. The Royal Church of the Blues.
But! Somebody else posted this song, “I Can’t Win,” which is sung by the Hamiltones and was actually the encore. Here it is. You’re welcome. (No Spotify on this one.)
Now, you’re saying to yourself, does this Cooder guy like to rock? Yeah, in his own way. This is a Johnny Cash tune he recorded a few years back called “Get Rhythm.” NRBQ used to cover this too.
A guy sitting behind me had seen the band a night or two earlier in Boston and said this night was better. Ry really took to the place as he said he really liked the sound of the room. (Although that said Ry, you might try to not ask the audience “what town is this?”) I’ve seen several bands there and it is definitely a nice-sounding room. (It’s up in New Hampshire not too many miles north of me.)
I liked this show so much I convinced my buddy Steve to go see these guys when they’re in Philly on July 3rd. Special guest? Emmylou Harris. Are you kidding me?
I am going to leave you here with The Hamiltones ‘coz now I love these guys. “Gotta Be Lovin’ Me” is an upbeat acoustic number and if you don’t dig this even a little bit, check for that hole in your soul (Starts about :31):