Concert Review – Ry Cooder with the HamilTones at Tupelo (NH) Music Hall

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:

Spotify link

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.

Spotify link

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):



25 thoughts on “Concert Review – Ry Cooder with the HamilTones at Tupelo (NH) Music Hall

  1. Hamiltones sound awrite, eh? I can definitely hear how they’d work with Ry.

    Anyhoo, I’m a big fan of much of Cooder’s stuff, though I haven’t heard his latest yet. Sometimes there’s just too much music, huh?

    I’d love to see him live, though I don’t think it’s likely to happen.


        1. Right. I don’t know if he’ll have the same guests but worth seeing regardless if at all possible. Ry is not a household name but those who know him, know him. Tix sold fast. I didn’t hesitate to pick up tickets as soon as I heard.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’ll have a look and see what’s what. I have a fair bit going on over the next few months, but if I can, I’ll be hoping to make it.


      1. I think it was the first CD, CB bought. Good to a guy that gets a lot of spins at my place. He’s a cigar just for your info.
        My neighbor bought it at a garage sale. CB said “Don’t you like it?” he said “I really like it but my wife doesn’t”. Now I have 2 albums and a CD.


        1. I don’t get the ‘I like it but my wife doesn’t’ bit. Does he force her to listen to it? Can’t he just put it on when she’s not around? That seems odd to me.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like it was a great show. And, yes, I’m totally with you on The Hamiltones – they sound freakin’ awesome!

    Strangely, the Tupelo Hall gig is not on, but based on the set lists from other tour dates, it looks like they performed “Go Home, Girl” (which the Stones recorded as “You Better Move On”) from “Bop Till You Drop,” the only Ry Cooder album I own (on vinyl) – but, hey, at least it’s a great one! My favorite tune from that record is “Little Sister,” and The Hamiltones would be the perfect backing vocalists for it. I think we should petition Ry to add to his set! 🙂

    Thanks for the shout-out, BTW!


    1. Yeah, the Tupelo gig didn’t make it up there for some reason. But it looks like they pretty much are playing more or less the same set each night. Funny you should mention “Little Sister.” Somebody in the audience shouted out a request for it and Ry admitted it was a tune the band had not rehearsed. Alas.


    2. I was at that show and it was truly inspiring. Ry is a master of his instrument – very musical. He had around 8 guitars with him and I believe he played them all, or at least most. I’ve been a fan for about 40 years and this was my first opportunity to see him. I wish he had played more from my favorites – Boomer’s Story and Into the Purple Valley – but it makes sense that he did a lot of material from Bop Til You Drop and Paradise and Lunch given that he had the Hamiltones with him. They were great. Every bit as good as the artists backing up Ry on the original recordings. Here is the set list according to my best recollection (I know I am missing some):

      Go Home Girl
      The Very Thing That Makes You Rich
      I Can’t Win
      Medley: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground/Vigilante Man
      Jesus On The Mainline
      Nobody’s Fault But Mine
      Everybody Ought To Treat A Stranger Right
      Straight Street
      Prodigal Son
      Shrinking Man
      Get Rhythm

      I could be wrong on the medley, but it sure sounded like Dark Was The Night to me. Great show even if you had to endure 15 minutes of pure delusion.


    3. Saw the final show of the tour last night in Santa Cruz, CA. I saw Ry w/Roseanne Cash in May doing all Johnny Cash material, which was wonderful, but I’d never seen Ry himself, and was expecting just him and Joaquin. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised when his band showed up, esp. the Hamiltontones, filling the spot once filled by Terry Evans and Bobby King – simply gorgeous harmony. A great show!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Boy I wish I had taped even one number. There were a couple of really magical moments. Wish I had recorded “The Very Thing That Makes You Rich.” Boy was that great. But that tune “I Can’t Win” gives you a pretty good idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve got tickets for the Seattle show, and I’m so excited. Ry has been a longtime favorite of mine, and even just the ticket purchase last month felt significant. I’ve enjoyed Joachim’s new record as well recently. It’s very different, but there’s some good material there.


    1. I actually never thought I’d see Cooder. Not that I’ve been longing to see him or anything. I never actually gave it much thought, pretty much relegating him to “guy I’ll hear on records.” So as soon as I heard he was coming to town, I thought, yeah! As to Joachim, the thing is I didn’t dislike his music. His voice just seemed flat and out-of-tune. I dunno, maybe it was an off night for him.


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