Another Legendary Guitarist and Blues Man Under Appreciated: The Legend of Ry Cooder

I'm always excited to finally check out artists that I've repeatedly heard about and just never gotten to experience. I find this a lot in blues because some of the blues legends, people like Albert Collines, Freddie King, many of the earlier artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Son House, and later greats like Roy Buchanan are overlooked even by people passionate about blues. This also seems to be the case with Ry Cooder. I'd heard the name passed around so much, but recently, for the first time I actually found some music, and just like I was with Johnny Winter and Roy Buchanan, I was quite impressed and cannot believe that this great guitarists hasn't gotten as much appreciation as maybe he deserves.

I did a little research and discovered that Ry Cooder was primarily a session guitarist through his career having played with a number of greats, including the Rolling Stones, was heavily into the blues, did record a number of solo albums and had a brief stint working with the also legendary Taj Mahal. There seems to be a lacking of Ry Cooder videos online, but tons of tributes, so I had a hard time finding some great examples of his music.

I did find this little clip though of Cooder playing "Jesus on the Mainline" from the Old Grey Whistle Test series from back in the day.

Here's the video, as always thanks to Youtube and timetorightwrongs.

This gospel and spiritual flavored acoustic is absolutely compelling, definitely solidifying this blues man and guitarists in my list of great players. Played with a bit of southern gospel soul and screeching acoustic slide, it's just a great little foot stamping hand clapping type of blues jam with just enough bite and rough edges to have that spontaneous feel that I think blues always needs.

One of the things I always heard about Ry Cooder before I found this clip is that he could range from blues to jazz to rock and roll and shows such an attention to detail with each that it is obvious he's "done his homework" musically. I think that statement is proved by this clip because although he definitely has his own style, his slide breaks, and just the feel of the performance seem to capture so much of the original feel of some of the acoustic blues greats who were prone to play spirituals. I'm talking about people like Son House, who was actually a preacher before turning blues man, and some of the others from his time.

Still, although showing great respect for the past, it's not like Cooder seems to be trying to copy those greats exactly, but adds some of his own style as well; definitely something that only great musicians can accomplish well.

Overall, I was impressed by this clip and wish there was more material around of this somewhat overlooked guitarist, especially some stuff on electric. By this clip alone though, I think I'll definitely be checking out Ry Cooder's music and guitar playing in the future.


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