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ALBUM REVIEW

Cool cat's nine lives across America

March 01, 2007|Steve Hochman

Ry Cooder

"My Name Is Buddy"

(Nonesuch/Perro Verde)

* * 1/2

Ry Cooder has played with some pretty cool cats. But the coolest may have been a singular tabby -- Buddy Red Cat (?-2005, per the liner notes). Here, Cooder imagines the frisky feline in a delightful tale of hoboing across a composite bygone America. Along with pal Lefty Mouse, he takes part in union organizing, encounters J. Edgar Hoover (an indiscriminately voracious pig), the Rev. Tom Toad (sermonizing about racial inequity), an extraterrestrial Green Dog and sundry other colorful characters.

On his musical trek, Cooder's playful pack of traveling buddies includes folk veteran Mike Seeger (Pete's half brother), bluegrass mandolin maverick Roland White, norteno accordion master Flaco Jimenez, percussionist son Joachim Cooder and the Chieftains' Irish piper, Paddy Moloney.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 05, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Ry Cooder album: A review of Ry Cooder's new album "My Name Is Buddy" in Thursday's Calendar Weekend appeared with a rating of 2 1/2 stars on The Times' four-star scale. The rating should have been 3 1/2 stars.

The first part of the album (in stores Tuesday) sounds like it could be a children's song cycle by Woody Guthrie, with Cooder returning to the '30s blues styles of Sleepy John Estes and Blind Alfred Reed that informed much of his own '70s work. But then it veers off into Tex-Mex, gospel, roadhouse blues -- all familiar Cooder territory, explored with typically uncluttered flair.

The real change-up comes in "Green Dog," a beat-jazz side trip with Cooder affecting a laconic delivery (a la "Schoolhouse Rock" singer Bob Dorough) and Juliette Commagere voicing the song's title character as a sultry torch singer.

Although serious themes are threaded throughout, it's light compared with Cooder's last work, the "Chavez Ravine" account of cultural displacement, politics and baseball. Maybe for that very reason, this is a better listen. Kick back, open a bag of catnip and enjoy the jaunt.

*

-- Steve Hochman

Albums are reviewed on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor).

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