October 11, 2020


REVIEW: of Joachim Cooder: Over That Road I'm Bound (Bob Fish, 10/05/20, Spectrum Culture)

While bloodlines are important, what's even more important to a musician is the ability to hear the music in your heart and soul. Joachim Cooder does just that on Over That Road I'm Bound. A distillation of banjo player Uncle Dave Macon's music, Cooder eschews a traditional vantage point, instead reworking the lyrics and melodies to create a hybrid that works with his chosen instrument, an electric mbira (a variation on the African thumb piano). From that starting point, with his young daughter as his musical director selecting the songs, what emerges is an album unlike anything you might expect.

Taking late 19th- and early 20th-century country tunes and transforming them into something combining world, folk and ambient music is a tall order. Yet Cooder's approach pays dividends as these songs now feel like a natural part of this century's musical order. Macon played a seminal role in the evolution of American music, and the cast of characters assembled to perform these tunes includes a couple of other seminal figures, Ry Cooder and Vieux Farka Touré. Especially important to the sound are fiddle player Rayna Gellert, bassist Sam Gendel and backing vocalist Juliette Commagere.

A song like "Come Along Buddy" shakes off the rust of generations that inhabits lines like, "Left my home months ago/ Now I'm standing at your window/ Something sure is smelling good/ Maybe you'll share some if you could." They detail a life that has long since passed. Yet, musically, it feels like something surprisingly modern thanks to the way the mbira changes the nature of the song. It places things in a different strand of time, forcing one to look at the song in a new light.

Posted by at October 11, 2020 5:53 PM