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Aural Pleasure Review

Ry Cooder: 'Election Special'

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Ry Cooder is as pissed off (if not more so) about the current political climate as, say, Tom Morello or even Bruce Springsteen. Yet, three months before the general election and days before the Republican National Convention, he returns with a surprisingly self-controlled (and seemingly rushed) album in which he plays most instruments (including a pre-war Regal Domino guitar) with his son Joachim on drums. The mostly bluesy and folksy offering is raw, direct, reportedly recorded on a single take, and spoken from the point of view of different characters ("Boss Mitt Romney went for a ride/ Pulled up on the highway side/ Tied me down up on the roof/ Boss I hollered woof, woof, woof," "sings" Romney's dog in album opener "Mutt Rumney Blues"). By his standards, this album is barely produced, certainly not as ambitious as any of the recordings in his Southern California trilogy that began with 2005's Chavez Ravine, and won't get Obama any more votes. But at its best ("Guantánamo," a Stonesey answer to "Guantanamera") it offers a refreshing satirist denouncing political bullshit and still playing a mean guitar. "Divide and rule/ That's always been their plan/We're in trouble again/ But this time we've got friends," he sings in "The Wall Street Part of Town." I certainly hope so.

★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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