Ry Cooder My Name Is Buddy

Coming hot on the heels of 2005’s excellent Chavez Ravine, Cooder has crafted another concept record, this time starring a cat named Buddy and his travels around a dying working-class America. Both in terms of themes and music, My Name Is Buddy is a throwback to Cooder’s early solo material, leaning heavily on the socially-conscious folk material of Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, and for that reason alone should appeal to fans who may have lost touch during his many soundtrack and world music excursions. In other ways, the album is a companion piece to Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions in its attempts to unabashedly indoctrinate younger audiences with Depression-era leftist values as a remedy for our current political climate. In terms of providing a political science lesson, songs like "Red Cat Till I Die” and "Strike!” only make it clear how far in the past that world now is, as opposed to the early ’70s when Cooder’s take on these ideas was perfectly in step with the communal spirit of the times. That aside, sonically most of My Name Is Buddy sits nicely alongside Cooder’s classics — Into The Purple Valley and Boomer’s Story — although unfortunately with little of his trademark slide guitar. Instead, the sound is filled out by long-time foils Van Dyke Parks, Flaco Jimenez and Jim Keltner, along with bluegrass legend Roland White and Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains. Pete Seeger himself even makes a cameo to drive the point home that the struggle to preserve democracy in America is ongoing. But the sense after listening to My Name Is Buddy is that that struggle is achieving success in newer forms, leaving merely an album of fine songs that are sadly dripping with nostalgia. (Nonesuch)