Various Artists

Roots of Ry Cooder

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In his many-faceted career as a producer, session musician, solo artist, and soundtrack composer, Ry Cooder has drawn continually on the deep roots of American music, reinventing and refocusing the old into the new in a nearly seamless balancing act. This fine collection of vintage roots material from Britain's Catfish Records visits some of Cooder's musical sources and influences, and the result is a wonderful snapshot of 1920s and Depression era rural America. Included here are the natural storytelling talents of Sleepy John Estes on "Brownsville Blues," the haunting, primal pain of Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)," the dark joy of "Viola Lee Blues" by Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, and the indignant Depression classic"How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live" by Blind Alfred Reed. The two-part "You Can't Stop a Tattler" by Washington Phillips is a chiming, charming and oddly contemporary-sounding delight. As a guide to the deep wellsprings of American music, Ry Cooder has been invaluable, and by compiling this collection of his sources, Catfish has given us a wonderful introduction to the music that came before Top 40, MTV and Clear Channel.

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