Ry Cooder's I, Flathead, is the culmination of his ambitious and fascinating "California Trilogy", the last of three albums in which the singer and guitarist journeys through the real and imagined history of mid-20th century, multi-ethnic California, sampling the sounds of its barrios and byways, its nightclubs and honkytonks. He encounters the disenfranchised, the hopeful, the cheerfully strange and seriously nefarious, along with the occasional alien who races around in a souped-up flying saucer on the desert salt flats. On previous instalments, Chávez Ravine (2005) and My Name Is Buddy (2007), learning the facts and stories behind Cooder's songs made them even more compelling, whether it was the not-quite vanished legacy of the Chávez Ravine neighbourhood of Los Angeles, bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium, or the allegorical, Bound For Glory-like adventures of Buddy Red Cat in a time of commie-baiting and union-busting. This time, however, no research is necessary: Cooder, a California native, has written a remarkable 104-page novella to accompany this disc, a surreally funny page-turner of a tale about itinerant musician Kash Buk and the various characters he meets in his travels out west, all of whom get to narrate parts of the story. If you mixed John Steinbeck with, say, Thomas Pynchon, and threw in a bit of Popular Mechanics for good measure, it might read something like the I, Flathead narrative.
Packaging: Wrapped casebound 104-page, 4-color book with CD pocket bound in
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