Itinerant American multi-instrumentalist, composer and prodigious singer Moira Smiley has toured the world with various ensembles. Her solo album Unzip The Horizon contains a delightful set of songs where she delivers remarkable solo, overdubbed and layered vocals. Her influences include contemporary American folk music, blues, African beats, jazz, Eastern European vocal traditions, Irish music and mesmerizing electronic ambience.
Personnel: Moira Smiley on vocals, accordion, banjo, piano, prepared piano, percussion, body percussion, field organ, keyboards, string arrangements; Sola Akingbola on percussion; Laura Bohn on vocals; Charlie Campagna on guitar; Krista Detor on vocals; Pilar Diaz on ukulele; Seamus Egan on percussion; Dena El Saffar on violin, viola, josa; Merrill Garbus on vocals; Elizabeth LaPrelle on vocals; Sam Lee on vocals; Jens Linell on percussion; Vanessa Lucas-Smith on cello; Steve Mascari on bass; Joseph Phillips on bass; Rekan Ibrahimi on percussion; Chip Reardin on percussion; Anna Robertson-Gevalt on vocals; Darrell Scott on vocals, piano; Chloe & Leah Smith on vocals; Jayme Stone on banjo; Kristen Toedtman on vocals; and David Weber on percussion, keyboards.
Rhiannon Giddens was born February 21, 1977 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a renowned multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer-songwriter and researcher, best known as one of the founders of the country, blues and old-time music band Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she was the lead singer, violinist, and banjo player.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album Genuine Negro Jig won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
One of the essential part of Giddens’ work is her research of folk instruments and traditions of the African-American diaspora.
A MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient, Rhiannon has performed for the Obama’s at the White House and acted in two seasons of the hit television series Nashville.
In addition to her solo recordings and her albums with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon recorded Out On the Ocean: Music of the British Isles (2004) and Northern Lights (2005) with Gaelwynd; Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (2014) as The New Basement Tapes; and Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways), a collaborative album that tells the stories of historic black womanhood and survival. Rhiannon has European American, African American and Native American background.
In 2016, Rhiannon received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.
in 2019 she collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. they released an album titled
Capitalist Blues is the third album by former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist and singer-songwriter, Leyla McCalla. On Capitalist Blues, Leyla incorporates a wide range of influences that reflect her Haitian heritage, the music of the Afro-diaspora and her current home in New Orleans, which is one the essential musical melting pots of the United States.
Leyla sings in English and in Haitian Kreyol and collaborated with local artists and acclaimed Haitian ensemble Lakou Mizik, who participated in the album while they were staying in New Orleans to perform at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. In addition to African-American and Haitian music, Leyla also added Brazilian rhythms and Cajun music to Capitalist Blues.
Capitalist Blues illustrates Leyla’s ideas and sentiments about the current world events, including violence in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war; capitalism; lead poisoning in water that has affected many minority communities, especially in Flint, Michigan; the divisiveness of Donald Trump; and the protests in New Orleans over the dismantling of Confederate monuments.
For this album, Leyla McCalla decided to use the guitar and banjo instead of her familiar cello.
Capitalist Blues s is a finely-crafted example of the essence of New Orleans roots music and songwriting with a social conscience.
Born in Atlanta and raised in Washington DC, Toshi Reagon cites her musical abilities from her family. Both parents belonged to SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) The Freedom Singers a folk group that sprung from the Civil Rights movement and toured the country to teach people about civil rights through song. Bernice Johnson Reagon is not only Toshi’s mom but the founder of the world renowned a capella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock (she retired in 2004 after 30 years with the group).
Toshi and her mom have collaborated on many projects together including co-producing many of Sweet Honey’s recordings. In 2009 they worked on ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’, a musical-theater work based on a tale by Gustave Flaubert. The piece is directed by Robert Wilson with music and libretto by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Toshi wrote the instrumental arrangements and serves as the production’s musical director.
Her rich musical heritage led her to become saturated in many traditional styles of music feeding her desire to explore a range of music that was not as accessible from blues to Kiss. Admittedly Toshi says that she attempts to: ‘take whatever I’m really into and try to learn it and put it into music.’
Toshi is a recipient of 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award for Music Composition.
Justice (Flying Fish Records, 1990)
The Rejected Stone (1994)
Kindness (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997) The Righteous Ones (Razor and Tie, 1999)
Africans in America Soundtrack (Ryko, 2001) Toshi (Razor and Tie, 2002)
I Be Your Water (2004) Have You Heard (Righteous Babe Records, 2005)
Until We’re Done (2008)
Lava: We Become (2009)
There and Back Again (2010)
Folk singer Paul Frederic Simon was born October 13, 1941 in Newark New Jersey. His music career started in Forest Hills High School when he and his friend Art Garfunkel began singing together as a duo occasionally performing at school dances. In 1964 Simon and Garfunkel got signed by Columbia Records. Their first LP, Wednesday Morning 3 AM was released in 1964.
The first album didn’t do very well so Simon moved to England where he released The Paul Simon Song Book in 1965. He returned to the United States to reunite with Garfunkel. They recorded several albums that had considerable commercial success, including Sounds of Silence (1965); Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966); Bookends (1968); The Graduate soundtrack (1968); and Bridge Over Troubled Water (1969).
Paul Simon’s early relationship with world music was clearly visible in Bridge Over Troubled Water which featured an Andean song called “El Condor Pasa.”
Simon and Garfunkel disbanded in 1971. Simon released a solo album titled Paul Simon in 1972. Subsequent albums included “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” (1973) that contained the hit songs as “Something So Right”, “Kodachrome”, “American Tune” and “Loves Me Like A Rock.”
In 1975 Paul Simon released “Still Crazy After All These Years” featuring the hit single “5 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” The next albums were “Greatest Hits Etc.” (1977) and “One Trick Pony” (1980). The One Trick Pony recording, Simon’s first album with Warner Bros. Records was also paired with a major motion picture of the same name, with Simon in the starring role. The hits dried up by the time he released Hearts and Bones (1983).
Paul Simon’s commitment with the USA for Africa project led him to perform on the famine relief fundraising single ‘We Are the World.” The Africa connection continued in 1986 with the Grammy-winning “Graceland”, which featured South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo. His fascination with rhythm continued in 1990 with “The Rhythm of the Saints” that included Brazilian sounds.
On May 9 2006, Warner Bros. Records released “Surprise,” Paul Simon’s first release since 2000, which was produced by Simon, and in collaboration with Brian Eno. Said Paul Simon: “Working with Brian Eno opens the door to a world of sonic possibilities; plus he’s just a great guy to hang with in the studio”, or for that matter in life. I had a really good time.” Surprise includes contributions from musicians including Steve Gadd, Herbie Hancock and Bill Frisell.
During his distinguished career, Paul Simon has been the recipient of many honors and awards including twelve Grammy Awards three of which (Bridge Over Troubled Water, Still Crazy After All These Years and Graceland) were albums of the year. In 2003 he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as half of the duo Simon and Garfunkel.
He is an inductee of The Songwriters Hall of Fame and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a member of Simon and Garfunkel and as a solo artist. He was a recipient of The Kennedy Center Honors in 2003.
Of Simon’s many concert appearances he is most fond of the two concerts in Central Park in New York (with his partner and childhood friend Art Garfunkel in 1981 and as a solo artist in 1991) and the series of shows he did at the invitation of Nelson Mandela in South Africa-the first American artist to perform in post-apartheid South Africa.
Paul Simon’s philanthropic work includes the co-founding of The Children’s Health Fund (CHF) with Dr. Irwin Redlener. The CHF donates and staffs mobile medical vans that bring health care to poor and indigent children in urban and rural locations around the United States. Simon has also raised millions of dollars for worthy causes as varied as AMFAR, The Nature Conservancy The Fund for Imprisoned Children In South Africa and Autism Speaks. In 1989 The United Negro College Fund honored him with its Frederick D. Patterson Award.
On May 23rd 2007, Simon was the recipient of the first annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Named in honor of George and Ira Gershwin, this newly created award recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture and will be given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1964)
The Paul Simon Songbook (CBS, 1965)
Sounds of Silence, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1966)
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1966)
Bookends, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1968)
Bridge over Troubled Water, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1970) Paul Simon (Columbia Records, 1972) There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (Columbia Records, 1973)
Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin’ (Columbia Records, 1974) Still Crazy After All These Years (Columbia Records, 1975) One-Trick Pony (Warner Bros. Records, 1980)
The Concert in Central Park, with Simon & Garfunkel (Warner Bros. Records, 1982)
Hearts and Bones (Warner Bros. Records, 1983) Graceland (Warner Bros. Records, 1986) The Rhythm of the Saints (Warner Bros. Records, 1990)
Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park (Warner Bros.Records, 1991)
Songs from The Capeman (Warner Bros. Records, 1997)
You’re the One (Warner Bros. Records, 2000)
Live from New York City, 1967, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 2002)
Old Friends: Live on Stage, with Simon & Garfunkel (Warner Bros. Records, 2004)
Live 1969, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 2008)
Surprise (Warner Bros. Records, 2006) So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music, 2011)
Live in New York City (Hear Music/Concord, 2012) Stranger to Stranger (Concord Records, 2016) Paul Simon – The Concert in Hyde Park (Sony Legacy, 2017)
Jake Armerding performed around Massachusetts from an early age often with his father Taylor’s popular bluegrass band Northern Lights. Armerding has won both regional and national acclaim for his mix of bluegrass instrumentation with contemporary melodic songwriting.
His album Jake Armerding was released in the spring of 2003 on Compass Records. It combines Armerding’s fine instrumental skill on guitar fiddle and mandolin with an ingenious set of songs that draw from the traditional forms while staying firmly grounded on contemporary ground.
Wrong Highway Blues with Northern Lights (1994)
Living in the City with Northern Lights (1996)
Caged Bird (1999) Jake Armerding (Compass Records 2003)
Walking on the World (2007)
Songs in Stained Glass (2009) Her (Stick Shift Records 2009)
Cellar Sessions, with The Fretful Porcupine (2010)
C’mon!, with Barnstar! (2011)
Cosmos in the Chaos (Stick Shift Records, 2013)
Arthel L. “Doc” Watson was born in Deep Gap North Carolina in 1922 to a musical family. Blind since infancy Doc started playing harmonica and a homemade banjo as a child.
At 13, armed with a $12 Stella guitar, Doc learned both the traditional tunes passed down through his family as well as the new “pop” songs he heard on the radio and records. Yet it wasn’t until Doc was 30 that he started earning money for his music. Hooking up with a local piano player Doc played rockabilly and swing for pay and traditional tunes in his free time.
The 1960s folk revival brought Doc out of the mountains and into the spotlight. Since his “discovery,” Doc became a full time musical artist. He played concerts clubs colleges and festivals all over the country including the Newport Folk Festival the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall. His style included everything from Appalachian folk music roots to rockabilly, blues, country, gospel and bluegrass. Doc was acknowledged by fans and critics alike as one of the Unirted States’ most accomplished flat-pickers and his artistic influence cannot be overstated. Doc’s many accolades and honors included five Grammy Awards, two honorary degrees, The National Heritage Fellowship, and The National Medal of Arts.
Doc Watson was a disciple of the legendary guitarist Merle Travis. Together with Merle Travis and Chet Atkins he made up the top tier of country guitar. Doc was able to record with his hero before his death.
He recorded over 50 albums blending Appalachian folk music with bluegrass, country ,gospel and the blues. Virtuoso fiddle player Mark O’Connor believes Doc was “as progressive as anybody I’ve ever heard.” There is no skill on the guitar that Doc hadn’t mastered whether it be speed tone or feeling.
In 1985, Doc’s son, Merle, who was 36-years old, died in a tragic tractor accident a few miles from home. A festival in his honor, Merlefest, was started in North Carolina and has become the largest and most important bluegrass and American folk music festival in the United States.
A historical meeting between Chet Atkins and Doc Watson, two of the 20th century’s most influential American guitarists, was documented in 1980. Released on CD, Reflections has become an influential guitar album.
The Watson family musical tradition continues with yet another generation. An album called Third Generation Blues found Doc carrying the Watson legacy forward, this time with Merle’s son, Richard on 2nd guitar.
Before he died, Doc Watson was semi-retired. He died on Tuesday May 29, 2012 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s Vol. 1 live (Folkways 1961)
Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s Vol. 2 live (Folkways 1963)
Doc Watson (1964)
Doc Watson & Son (1965) Southbound (Vanguard 1966)
Ballads From Deep Gap (Vanguard 1967)
Old-Timey Concert (with Clint Howard and Fred Price) (live) (Vanguard 1967)
Doc Watson in Nashville: Good Deal! (Vanguard 1968)
Doc Watson on Stage (Vanguard 1971)
The Elementary Doctor Watson! (Sugar Hill 1972)
Then and Now (Tomato 1973)
The Best of Doc Watson (1973)
Two Days in November (Poppy Records 1974) Memories (Sugar Hill 1975)
Doc and the Boys (United Artists Records 1976)
Lonesome Road (Beat Goes On 1977)
Look Away! (United Artists Records 1978)
Live and Pickin’ (United Artists Records 1979)
Reflections with Chet Atkins (Sugar Hill SH-3896 1980)Tellulive (Flying Fish 198)
Red Rocking Chair (Flying Fish 1981)
Doc and Merle Watson’s Guitar Album (Flying Fish 1983)
Down South (Sugar Hill 1984)
Pickin’ the Blues (Flying Fish 1985)
Riding the Midnight Train (Sugar Hill 1986)
Portrait (Sugar Hill 1987) On Praying Ground (Sugar Hill 1990)
Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City (1990)
My Dear Old Southern Home (Sugar Hill 1991)
Remembering Merle (1992)
Live Recordings 1963-198: Off the Record Volume 2 (with Bill Monroe) (1993)
Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley 196-1962 (1994)
Original Folkways Recordings: 196-1962 (1994)
Docabilly (Sugar Hill 1995)
The Vanguard Years (1995)
Watson Country (1996)
Doc & Dawg with David Grisman (Acoustic Disc 1997)
Elementary Doctor Watson! / Then and Now (1997)
Del Doc & Mac with Del McCoury and Mac Wiseman (Sugar Hill 1998)
Home Sweet Home (Sugar Hill 1998)
Third Generation Blues (Sugar Hill 1999)
The Best of Doc Watson: 1964-1968 (1999)
Foundation: Doc Watson Guitar Instrumental Collection 1964-1998 (2000)
Doc Watson at Gerdes Folk City (live) (2001)
Then and Now/Two Days in November (2002)
The Three Pickers with Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs (2003) Trouble in Mind: Doc Watson Country Blues Collection (2003) Sittin’ Here Pickin’ the Blues (Rounder, 2004)
Black Mountain Rag (2006)
Vanguard Visionaries (2007)
Americana Master Series: Best of Doc Watson (2008) The Definitive Doc Watson (Sugar Hill Records 2013) Never the Same Way Once, 7 CD boxed set with live concerts by Doc & Merle Watson made in 1974 at The Boarding House in San Francisco (Owsley Stanley Foundation, 2017)
Doc’s Guitar. Fingerpicking and Flatpicking. 9 minute DVD includes tabbooklet. Produced by Smithsonian/Folkways and Homespun Video.
Flatpicking With Doc. 8-min. video Includes music + tab book. HomespunVideo.
Doc’s Guitar. 9 Min Video Includes Music and Tab. Produced by Smithsonian/Folkways and Homespun Video
Beth Nielsen Chapman was born on September 14, 1958 in Harlingen, Texas (USA). Her musical eclecticism found its roots in her childhood. The middle child of five in an Air Force family, she moved six times before she reached adolescence. At that time, she started playing guitar and piano and writing songs.
During her developmental years, Chapman was attracted by the compositional richness of greats like Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin. She memorized songs from Broadway musicals as well as soaking up the sounds of everything from Stevie Wonder, Sting and Joni Mitchell to Ella, Paul Simon and The Beatles and honed her skills as a performer in small clubs throughout Alabama and the South.
Beth Nielsen Chapman has become one of the leading singer-songwriters of her generation. Her music shows up regularly not only at the top of the charts, but on television (ER, Dawson’s Creek, Providence, Felicity) and in movie soundtracks, including The Prince of Egypt, Message In A Bottle, The Rookie, Where The Heart Is and Practical Magic.
Among her biggest successes as a writer is This Kiss, a huge international hit for Faith Hill and ASCAP’S 1999 Song Of The Year. The song was co-written by Beth with Annie Roboff and Robin Lerner. That same year Beth was chosen as Nashville NAMMY’S Songwriter of the Year and was inducted into The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame.
Beth’s songs have been covered by a wide selection of artists including Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ute Lempter and many more.
As an artist, Beth has released several albums, four of which were on Warner Brothers Records including her groundbreaking Sand and Water album, written and recorded following the death of her husband from cancer in 1994. This record is often used as a tool for healing through grief. As Beth toured during the release of Sand & Water she often taught workshops on creativity and working through grief.
Just as she was putting the finishing touches on her subsequent release Deeper Still (to which John Prine, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Kimmie Rhodes and Andy Bey all contributed background vocals) Beth was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer. Successfully treated over the next twelve months, she went on to release the record and made it a point to speak about her experience and encourage women to be vigilant in caring for their health. Deeper Still was Beth’s first release for Sanctuary Records.
Look, her second release for Sanctuary in 2004, marked a new turning point in a life touched by both great happiness and great sorrow, and just as sadness and love shape a soul as surely as sand and water shape the earth, we see this artist’s heart emerge strong, happy and still tender.
In 2005 Beth released Hymns, a fascinating side-project of a cappella hymns sung in Latin, produced by Beth and featuring beautiful harmonies, with her son Ernest singing the tenor parts and her father doing some of the bass parts.
Hymns is an important milestone in the journey of Beth as an artist. A project which has been her intention to complete for many years is finally going out into the world. Here is what Beth has to say about this amazing collection of songs:
“I was raised in a Catholic family and the beautiful melodies on Hymns, sung mostly in Latin, were the ‘hit parade’ for all of us born before Vatican II. I came to record this CD while I was in the midst of recording a different CD of World Hymns, each in a different language and from a different religion. During that process, I was having trouble making up my mind which Latin hymn I would choose to include.
When I searched for a collection of my favorite Latin hymns I couldn’t find one anywhere. That’s when I decided it might be a good idea to go deep into the roots of my own spiritual beginnings as part of the journey of recording all these other hymns from around the world. This detour has taken me the better part of a year, and has made my Mama very happy! Here, in these songs, are the roots of my spiritual journey. They center me, even while I have come to believe that faith is something beyond the boundaries of any one religion.
My belief has always been that God is light, and humanity, like a diamond. Imagine each spiritual perspective, or path of faith, as an angle cut into that diamond. The light shines through and reflects off of all these angles in so many directions. If you were standing on one face of the diamond, it might seem as if the light is only shining on you. But I’ve always believed that God shines through all of humanity, and just as the sun breaks up and flies in every direction when it’s light hits a diamond, every voice of praise, in every spiritual language comes from and goes back to the same source of light.
The stories and teachings of my childhood have certainly shaped my way of feeling connected to this light. But I feel that someone of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or any other faith, has just as much a right to define and to celebrate, from each of their perspectives, the beauty and sureness of the love of God.
I have for a long time wanted to use my voice like a thread winding through all these languages and melodies. Some of these melodies are very old, some new with ancient text. I’ve tried to be conscious of choosing lyrics that speak of devotion and faith whose meanings do not seek to separate or condemn any other voice of devotion. World Hymns will be completed early in 25. Meanwhile I’m enclosing Hymns, a collection of the old favorites I grew up listening to, along with my deep wish for peace.”
Drawing influences from the fields of folk, country, pop and jazz, her songs address such timeless themes as loss, renewal, mortality, spirituality and grace under pressure.
Back To Love, released in 2010, generated two hits on BBC Radio 2, and in 2012 Beth released, The Mighty Sky, a collection of songs about the marvels of astronomy.
In 2014 she released Uncovered, a set of songs that have been covered by other artists, but she had never recorded herself. Many were Top 10 hits, seven of which topped the charts at #1. Uncovered was recorded in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and her own “Tree House” studio in Nashville. It features well-known American and Scottish musicians.
Ryland Peter Cooder (Ry Cooder) was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 15, 1947. He is a guitarist well-known for his slide guitar style.
Ry Cooder first attracted attention in the 1960s, playing with bluesman Taj Mahal in The Rising Sons, The Seeds, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
Cooder played a role in the new appreciation for traditional Cuban music thanks to his collaboration as producer in the Buena Vista Social Club (1997) recording that became a worldwide hit.
German filmmaker Wim Wenders directed a documentary film of the Cuban musicians involved, titled Buena Vista Social Club (1999) that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000. Cooder also produced Ibrahim Ferrer’s Buenos Hermanos, and Mambo Sinuendo, all Grammy winners.
Ry Cooder’s solo work has been an eclectic mix on american roots music, including dustbowl folk music, tex-mex, soul, gospel, rock and other genrese. He has collaborated with many influential musicians, including the Rolling Stones, Little Feat, the Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Hawaiian master Gabby Pahinui, and the late Ali Farka Toure. Cooder also formed the Little Village supergroup with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner.
Cooder’s 1978 album Bop Till You Drop was the first popular music album to be recorded digitally.
Ry Cooder’s Chávez Ravine, released in 2005 is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Mexican-American enclave known as Chávez Ravine. Using real and imagined historical characters, Cooder and friends created an album that recollects various aspects of the poor but vibrant hillside Chicano community that was razed by developers in the 1950s in the interest of “progress.” The Dodgers Stadium (The Dodgers are a famous American professional baseball team) eventually was built on the spot. Cooder said at the time, “Here is some music for a place you don’t know, up a road you don’t go. Chávez Ravine, where the sidewalk ends.”
Chávez Ravine features various musical genres found in Los Angeles, including conjunto, corrido, R&B, Latin pop, and jazz. The 15-track album is sung in Spanish and English/ Cooder is joined by East Los Angeles legends like Chicano music patriarch Lalo Guerrero, Pachuco boogie king Don Tosti, Thee Midniters front man Little Willie G., and Ersi Arvizu of The Sisters and El Chicano.
“Los Angeles was paved over, malled up, high-rised, and urban-renewed, as fortunes were made, power was concentrated, and everything got faster and bigger,” explained Cooder. “But there is a lot I miss now. The texture of certain older neighborhoods, like Bunker Hill, a rural feel in urban places, like Chávez Ravine and the timbre of life there, and just peace and quiet,” he said.
Chavez Ravine was the first recording of a California trilogy. The second volume was 2007’s My Name Is Buddy.
The last recording of the California trilogy is I, Flathead, an album of music by the fictional musician Kash Buk and his band the Klowns, characters in Cooder’s 95-page tale. The album and novella were released together on June 24, 2008, by Nonesuch / Perro Verde Records.
The novella tells the story of Kash Buk and his friend Shakey the alien, together with various friends, lovers, enemies, and associates in a long-gone California filled with deserts, salt-flat racing, Native Americans, seedy dance halls, amusement parks, and sinister plots. The album includes fourteen songs by Buk, a hard-edged salt flat racer and roadhouse musician. With the story and the music, Cooder creates a world where “strange people are the norm,” inspired by country western music, Popular Mechanics magazines, and science fiction movies.
Flathead reflects change and disruption in a young, post-war, do-it-yourself culture of outsiders obsessed with racing cars fashioned from military surplus parts and flathead engines. As Kash Buk explains, “You got your hard times, your good times, a dog story for you animal lovers, and a forbidden-race love song, which every record ought to have at least one of.”
Cooder produced I, Flathead and wrote or co-wrote all the songs. He sings and plays mandolin, guitar, and bass on the album, alongside Mariachi Los Camperos; Joachim Cooder, and Jim Keltner on drums; Rene Camacho on bass; Francisco Torres on trombone; Ron Blake and Jon Hassell on trumpet; Anthony Gil on bass sax; Flaco Jiménez on accordion, Gil Bernal on tenor sax; Jared Smith on keyboards; Martin Pradler on electric piano and drums; and Juliette Commagere on vocals.
Ry Cooder has composed soundtracks for more than twenty films, including Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, and The End of Violence.