Ry Cooder

My Name Is Buddy

Ry Cooder has been doing the unexpected for more than 35 years, beginning with his debut album, Into the Purple Valley, and on through his explorations of various musical genres and periods. He was also the guy who brought us The Buena Vista Social Club, and he was a pioneer in world music, playing guitar with musicians from across the planet. My Name Is Buddy is a return to the kind of stuff he was doing when he made Boomer’s Story, back in the ‘70s. It’s a concept album, and I’m not sure I’m entirely clear on the concept, though I like lots of the songs here, all of them about the poor and downtrodden, and about labor organizing and bucking the fat cats. It’s meant to be reminiscent of the ‘30s, but it seems oddly relevant to the current moment. The part of the concept I’m not clear on is the “Buddy” of the album’s title. Buddy is a cat who prowls these songs, a kind of Woody Guthrie/Joe Hill figure who buddies up with a mouse named Lefty. It’s pure-dee Americana of a kind Cooder has been bringing us for a long time. The closing song, “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere,” is worth the price of the whole damned album, and if it doesn’t move you, you’re likely already dead.