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Ry Cooder

I, Flathead | Nonesuch/Perro Verde
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  June 24, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
For the final entry in his “California Trilogy,” following 2005’s Chavez Ravine and last year’s My Name Is Buddy, Ry Cooder once again navigates a Southern California of strange realities and real strangers. But whereas Chavez Ravine lamented a lost Los Angeles of honest diversities and Buddy was an allegory for a Steinbeck/Guthrie–inspired hobo morality tale, I, Flathead (produced and mostly written by Cooder) bumps into an encroaching post-war modernity that its narrator — salt-flat drag racer and traveling musician Kash Buk — doesn’t quite know how to live in. More playful and ambitious than its predecessors, I, Flathead — released along with a 95-page novella that expands on its concepts — winds its musical way through the panoply of Cooder’s favored roots-Americana subgenres. Its protagonist pays homage to the Man in Black and Western-swing steel-guitarists, the “Filipino Dance Hall Girl,” and the guy who complains that “public transportation gets me down.” With a trusty old cohort of Flaco Jiménez, Jim Keltner, and son Joachim Cooder, along with Mariachi Los Camperos (who liven up the opening “Drive like I Never Been Hurt”), ace brass blowers, and singer Juliette Commagere (on the otherworldly “Little Trona Girl”) fleshing it out, I, Flathead is the perfect capper to Cooder’s dusty travelogue.
  Topics: CD Reviews , RY COODER
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