Following the odd, but entertaining Hawaiian, southwestern mix of Chicken Skin Music, Ry Cooder hit the road with a group of Tex-Mex musicians led by the great accordionist Flaco Jiminez. To make things even more interesting, he also included three soul- and gospel-based backup singers in the lineup (two of whom had appeared on Chicken Skin Music). Recorded in December of 1976, over a span of two nights in San Francisco, Show Time documents these shows by Cooder and his "Chicken Skin Revue." And while Cooder's guitar -- along with his usual eclectic assortment of songs -- is the star of the show, each of the principles has his chance to shine throughout the evening. Terry Evans, Bobby King, and Eldridge King's soulful rendition of "The Dark End of the Street," as well as the lovely "Volver, Volver," which features Jiminez, are a couple of the highlights. Cooder's selection of material here is as eclectic as ever, but Jiminez and the band stay with him every step of the way. They seem equally at home with the R&B of "Smack Dab in the Middle" as they do with the Jiminez instrumental "Viva Seguin," which leads into a Tex-Mex reworking of Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi." Still, as good as the fit may be between leader and band, it's the Negro spiritual, "Jesus on the Mainline," stripped down to just four voices and Cooder's remarkable bottleneck, that's the real showstopper here. Cooder is not usually one to stray too far outside the confines of the song on record, but in this setting he gets a chance to really stretch. Like most live recordings, Show Time isn't necessarily essential, though there's enough to make it worthwhile for fans. Also, included is a terrific Dixieland take on Gary "U.S." Bonds' "School Is Out" recorded with the same band in the studio.
AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach