While I've been aware of his work for years, just lately have I been exploring his catalog carefully and settling on my favorite pieces of his music. A native of Santa Monica, Calif., Cooder has enjoyed an illustrious and multi-faceted career, recording since the early 1970s solo and with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Randy Newman.
His film soundtracks and excursions into blues and so-called Tex-Mex and Dust-Bowl Folk are especially moving. His gift for re-imagining bygone musical genres is astounding, as evidenced by his forays into Cuban, gospel, calypso and assorted varieties of folk music.
Cooder's vocals are surprisingly disappointing if you ask me, so I steer clear of everything but his instrumentals. And there are plenty of remarkable ones. Perhaps best known for his brilliant slide guitar work, Cooder is superbly adept at painting big, open-aired tapestries of sound – atmospheric tunes with haunting themes and lonely, wide-angle views.
My hat's off to this uncompromising artist, this inimitable sonic genius. The world could use a few more musical masterminds like Ry Cooder.
to “My Blueberry Nights,” an independent film from 2007:
Cooder and Cuban guitarist Manuel Galbán on “Los Twangueros”
from their 2003 collaboration “Mambo Sinuendo”: