By the time he was age 22, Ry Cooder was already a veteran of the music business and in great demand as a studio musician and sideman. Shortly after signing a contract with Warner Music in 1969, he released his first album under his own name, placing his confidence in the musical talent he had developed since being a child and on the rare value of his favorite instrument, the steel guitar.
The present LP that carries his name is a fascinating blend of blues, folk, rock 'n' roll and pop — a unique mixture, which combines superb songs, virtuosic playing and somewhat bizarre yet imaginative arrangements. For material, Cooder, the son of folklorist parents, dug out 10 gems coming from more than six decades, right back to the 1920s — by legends such as Woody Guthrie, Blind Blake, Sleepy John Estes and Leadbelly, as well as a more up-to-date Randy Newman composition.
As magnificent as his choice might be, it is the exuberant charm of his own instrumental composition "Available Space" that almost steals the show here. Expansive and unbiased, Cooder plays an ironic game made up of wordless irregular phrases, which promise the listener something new and ultimately circle in an infinite loop.
Cooder's need to prove himself, moderated by his veneration for the past, helps to create a completely original work that will prove rewarding for the adventurous listener.