Found in Translation

Sundown. A raised thumb hopes for a lift, something stirs the Spanish moss curtaining the bayou, a coyote calls in the distance. It’s hot as hell and a truck full of old men with barely a set of teeth between them stops just in time to disappoint an alligator. The driver turns up the radio and burns the remaining tread off his tyres. Open windows create a pink-tickling breeze.

On Tuesday night D took me to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall to see Ry Cooder. I’ve seen some amazing live music in the last few years, but nothing compared to this. Cooder has a way of making traditional American music feel not just relevant but manifest; it was a warm blooded creature who had been born to the same parents, to the sound of the same wind in the same trees as I was. It was kin.

He started with a version of Nobody’s Fault but Mine* that transformed the grand concert hall into a wood-patched shack that smelt of staling coffee and dead spiders, and had defied its neighbour – a bank bursting river – for decades. But only just. I felt lucky to be alive.

And he continued in the same vein, bringing songs I’ve heard dozens of times to dizzying, apposite life.

Here’s the set list:

As if he himself weren’t enough he was joined on stage by the Hamiltones
who sang with such ebullience it was all I could do to stop myself from getting up to dance.
And then there was the transfixing sax player: he must have learnt to play in a room full of Klee’s most experimental paintings, for he made his instrument sound like this:
Paul Klee, Rising Sun.
Some may consider this old timey music, but as far as I’m concerned it was beyond Postmodern.
I’ve heard speculation that this is likely to be Cooder’s last international tour; if you get the chance to see it, even if you’re really a death metal fan, don’t let it slip.

Header image Twittering Machine: Paul Klee.

*Note the sax.

8 thoughts on “Found in Translation

  1. Ry Cooder is one of those musicians who’s always been roaming around somewhere in the background of my mental screenplay. Sometimes, it’s just been a rift of his that underscores a moment, but he has been part of the score. Thanks for the review and sounds! xox


    1. I first heard him on the Crossroads soundtrack and I’ve loved him ever since, but he exceeded all my expectations on Tuesday. I wish I could write proper reviews, people sometimes ask me to do their books and I always have to decline. xox


  2. I was never intimately familiar with his music but his ‘Bop til you Drop’ got some pretty heavy airplay with me all those years ago. Thanks for the links. No matter how old you are you can still find new music to enjoy. That goes for literature, as well.


    1. I think it probably goes for everything: I had Lebanese food for the first time when we were in London and it was wonderful. But, yes, literature, I’m luxuriating in contemporary American poetry at the moment, you seem to have a much more playful and experimental approach to poetry over there and it foments some gems.


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