Release Date: May 11, 2018
Record label: Fantasy
After Ry Cooder issued 2012's bitingly observant Election Special with its indictments of the GOP, Mitt Romney, and the Koch Brothers in a meld of sounds that included folk, blues, and roots rock, fans wondered where, if anyplace, he'd go next. But he was silent. Prodigal Son, his debut album for Fantasy, takes him back to the beginning when he recorded old blues, gospel, folk, and swing tunes that reflected the musical past as illumination for the historical present.
For an album on which he takes stock of a 21st century US riddled with crises and uncertainty, Cooder astutely plunders the grammar of the nation's folk music history with remarkable results. Three of its 11 songs come from his own pen, but elsewhere his archival skills come to the fore, referencing such bygone chroniclers as The Stanley Brothers and Blind Willie Johnson. "I do connect the political/economic dimensions with the inner life of people," he writes in the accompanying notes, "since people are at risk and oppressed on all sides in our world today.