Ry Cooder is known as a virtuoso on almost every stringed instrument, and on Into the Purple Valley, he demonstrates this ability on a wide variety of instruments. The main focus of the music here is on the era of the Dust Bowl, and what was happening in America at the time, socially and musically. Songs by Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and a variety of others show Cooder's encyclopedic knowledge of the music of this time, combined with an instinctive feel for the songs. 'Phenomenal' is the descriptive word to describe his playing, whether it is on guitar, Hawaiian "slack key" guitar, mandolin, or the more arcane instruments he has found. This is a must for those who love instrumental virtuosity, authentic reworkings of an era, or just plain good music.
AllMusic Review by Bob Gottlieb