Ry Cooder’s new album, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, is a protest album for the Internet age. Inspired by a headline on the website Truthdig (“No Banker Left Behind”), these 14 songs tackle what the legendary guitarist sees as the death of news “stories” in favor of “content”—shallow, context-less sound bites that fail to capture the complexity of world events, to convey texture or impart a sense of consequence.
Drawing on his wide range of musical influences (blues, rock, jug bands, norteño), the man behind Keith Richards’ guitar tuning and The Buena Vista Social Club sings fiercely about war and immigration policy; Wall Street and white flight. True to his album’s mission, he narrates from a number of perspectives, many of them rarely heard.
But above and beyond his political goals, Cooder was aiming for something that felt intimate and direct.
“More and more I’m convinced that you don’t want to over-think it,” he says. “You just want to express it, almost like you’re sitting in dancehall, or somewhere, and people are playing together. That means you sing live. It sounds real.”
Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down is out from Nonesuch on August 30th, but for now, you can listen to it, in its entirety, exclusively here on Slate.*
*Update, Sept. 6, 2011: This stream is no longer available. Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down is out now and available to buy from Nonesuch and Amazon.