Boomer's Story

Boomer's Story

Kin to the rustic camaraderie of the Band and tinged by the eccentricity of his former employer Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder’s 1972 album Boomer’s Story is an easy-rolling, unblemished expression of its author’s talents. Though it is comprised entirely of other people’s songs (Joseph Spence, Dan Penn, and Skip James are among its sources), Boomer’s Story couldn’t sound less like a covers record. Unfolding in the continuity of an effortless, shuffling groove and underscored by instrumentation that seems grown straight from the soil, the ten songs together form a complete whole. In the fashion of the folksingers he idolized, Cooder leads the album with his own untrained everyman voice, and when the material demands a deeper vocalist he simply uses his guitar. With nothing but slide guitar, Cooder handles Penn’s “Dark End of the Street,” one of the most naked and emotional songs ever written, with all the required grace. When Sleepy John Estes emerges to lead on “President Kennedy,” Cooder leaves enough space to let the song float through on little more than a foot stomp heartbeat and Estes’ Tennessee keen — the way only someone who really understood would. It all comes housed behind one of rock’s great album covers: a windswept Cooder tips his hat to us in a stark black-and-white poster that looks like some gleeful drifter’s lost wanted sign. A natural fusion of arranging, playing, and atmosphere, Boomer’s Story is a perfectly-articulated stanza for the American music Cooder loved.

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