Words by Jeff Kaliss
San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, which looks as impressive as its name, is one of the closest things to a British concert-hall venue on the other side of the pond. It made a great place for a great crowd to cheer on this reunion of roots music champion and guitarist Ry Cooder with Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jiménez two years ago, bolstered by the large brassy Chicano ensemble La Banda Juvenil. Perhaps not by coincidence, it was Cooder’s first live recording in 35 years, his last and only other one having been made at the same venue with Jiménez.
Whether or not they caught him the first time around, the audience sound like they’re there to shout and sway, not to sit attentively awaiting great solos. Cooder meets these expectations with his own repertoire old and new, and a curious potpourri of covers. His recent ‘El Corrido de Jesse James’, as the title suggests, was created in the Tex-Mex oom-pah story-song style, and the band pumps it up here, with Jiménez’s authentic flavours adding musical integrity. There’s a whimsical corrido twist to Woody Guthrie’s ‘Do Re Mi’ and Lead Belly’s ‘Goodnight Irene’. There’s even a singalong send-up of the 60s hit ‘Wooly Bully’, written by Chicano rocker Domingo Samudio, aka Sam the Sham.
TRACK TO TRY: ‘El Corrido de Jesse James’