Ry Cooder is a remarkable figure in post-war American music. In truth, only Taj Mahal really gets close to him in terms of exploring the borderlands of different musical styles. In recent years, Cooder has expanded his muse beyond the environs of the USA, taking in collaborative works with V M Bhatt and Ali Farke Toure, as well as the Buena Vista Social Club, to name but three of his musical sojourns. Since his first, self-titled solo album of 1970, Cooder had stealthily built a solo career around an almost anthropological, archaeological excavation of forgotten sounds and idioms of North American music. 'Chicken Skin Music' is one of his most accomplished collections, taking in Tex Mex music at a time when it was very much a minority style. He took songs such as 'He'll Have To Go', something of a cornball piece in the hands of Jim Reeves, but here transformed into an emotive (but witty) song for the love lorn. 'The Bourgeois Blues' is one of Cooder's finest excursions into the Blues, and his version of 'Smack Dab In The Middle' acknowledges the influence of Ray Charles. It's recorded brilliantly, the musicianship is classy, and yet understated, and all the components conspire to make one of the finest albums of its era, that has not dated, because it didn't sound of its' time at the time. Nor is it a museum piece; 'Chicken Skin Music' resonates with bluesy, soulful power, and it swings like mad. Cooder made more commercially successful albums, but this is an artistic highwater mark that you owe it to yourself to own.