Last night, I was fortunate to see Ry and Joaquim Cooder in concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria. The elder Cooder has long been one of my favorite musicians, an incredible guitar-singer-songwriter who has worked with everyone in the music industry in a career that dates back to the late 1960s. Now 71, he is on his first tour in a decade behind “The Prodigal Son,” a tour-de-force return to his folk/blues/jazz roots that mixes original songs with reimagined gospel songs.
On the new album, Cooder, a self-described curmudgeon whose music has veered toward the stridently political over the past decade, focuses on empathy, understanding, and tolerance. It’s a welcome and beautiful piece of music, merging his best work with the sonic textures laid down by Joaquim.
Cooder’s son, who has played in his father’s band since he was a teenager, co-produced the album and played drums. He also opened the show with his own set, playing the ethereal and textured songs from his EP “Fucsia Machu Picchu” on an electric mbira (thumb piano). The Hamiltones, a Charlotte-based trio, provided beautiful backing vocals amid the swirls of sound that resonated throughout the venue. They are a group to watch.
All in all, it was a great night — life affirming in all the right ways. Get “The Prodigal Son.” Trust me.
(Because of photo restrictions placed by the venue, these pics are of Joaquim’s opening act, along with a couple of the Hamiltones. A special thanks to Mark Englund for the ticket.)