Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Ry Cooder out to revive country music with Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White

RECOMMENDED READING


Ry Cooder is off on a rant. "I cannot understand how records have fallen so down," grumbles the legendary guitarist, calling from his home in Santa Monica, Calif. "The perfect thing is the record. It's your days of your life, your emotions, your experiences, in a three-minute song. You say you love this, and now you don't listen? I can't even give my records away to my own friends: 'I got a new one. It's good. Would you like to have it?' 'Well, I'm kind of busy now.' 'Busy doing what?' 'Well, I'm on the computer a lot.' Jesus H. Christ."

Cooder has a reputation for crankiness, especially when it comes to how things are versus how they used to be. But that'll happen when you spend your life immersed in the musical traditions of yesteryear.

Cooder, 69, is currently on the road with mandolinist Ricky Skaggs and singer Sharon White, performing a night of country, folk and bluegrass numbers from the 1960s and earlier. When they hit Tampa's David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, they'll dive deep into the history of American roots music — Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, the Louvin Brothers, the Delmore Brothers — and try to recapture for a modern audience exactly what makes it so magical.

"That's hit music of the time," he says. "The Delmore Brothers is hit music — very, very popular — and it still retains that rural flavor and simplicity. I always think of it as family music, really, because families sang it. They could sing it. You didn't have to be a genius."

Preserving the values and traditions of roots music might be Cooder's lasting legacy. A renowned rock guitarist and songwriter — he's played and recorded with the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Eric Clapton and Randy Newman, among many others — he's just as influential as a global musicologist, having worked closely with folk musicians ranging from Irish band the Chieftains to Malian singer Ali Farka Toure.

Most famously, Cooder orchestrated and produced Buena Vista Social Club, a 1997 album of performances by veteran Cuban musicians captured in the Wim Wenders documentary of the same name. The film was nominated for an Academy Award, and the album became a cultural phenomenon.

"It's paid for everything," he admits. "It's nice; otherwise, we'd be out in some sort of double-wide out in Pacoima somewhere. The other stuff didn't make any money but it did, so it's nice when you can get a buck, you know? Harder to do, though, nowadays."

This tour came about in part because Cooder was looking for an excuse to get back on the road. He doesn't tour much these days; he can't even remember the last time he came to Tampa Bay. ("Was it in the early '70s with Arlo Guthrie?" he wonders. "That's the only possible memory I have.")

After watching a video of Skaggs and the Whites — Sharon's family band, with sister Cheryl and father Buck — on YouTube, Cooder reached out about a collaboration. They picked songs that suited their mission, classic country tunes with good harmonies and space for instrumental solos. They rehearsed for a year in Nashville, with Cooder and son/drummer Joachim flying in for practice, before booking live shows last summer.

Cooder is ecstatic about the chance to tour with Skaggs: "I've heard all the mandolin players. I'm gonna tell you right now, I don't care who you say, this is the best. He plays some dog s--- up there that is just amazing." And he calls Buck White "as deep a character as I've ever met. … He's a source guy. He's the best."

And he's excited about sharing some good old-time music with the world. Some of the songs in their set date back to the Bristol Sessions, the 1927 recordings considered the genesis of popular country music.

"The tunes took hold and they stayed with people, and they sang them in their homes or in church, if it was religious," he says. "That was the way the music grew up, and took hold of people's consciousness or minds. It became a big part of their lives."

There's no comparing that intense regional and personal connection to what we now know as modern country music, Cooder says.

"It became so polished and so professional and so corporate," he says. "This is obvious criticism that people make, not just me, but you lose the feeling of the people themselves, the inner person. I know it's true, because I can see the effect of these simpler songs. I'm not saying that people were better or smarter back then; obviously not. But there was this flavor for their content — the language itself, the language of people."

So far, it's connecting with crowds. Cooder expects the trio will record a live album at some point during this tour; there's so much excitement in the house that it would be a shame not to try to capture it.

"I know the audience is liking it," he says. "I see it in their faces. You listen to them tell us how great we are and how much they love it. I know it's true. They're not faking it. It's not because we're famous or rich or wearing fancy clothes, by any means. It's not like some d--- product convention for heaven's sake, like a drone show in Vegas. We're 100 million miles away from such things."

But that's a rant for another day.

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

Comments
Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer knows he’s overdue for a trip to Florida. For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area....
Updated: 3 hours ago
Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

This Black Friday weekend, you can head to your local shopping center and fight traffic to get the perfect gift. Or you can stay at home by your computer and give the gift of entertainment.A handful of Tampa Bay concert venues are offering ticket dea...
Published: 11/22/17
This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

SWINGIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE: Brian Setzer OrchestraWhen you spend 13 straight Thanksgivings on the road, you build some traditions with your crew. "We get a big ballroom," said Brian Setzer. "I don’t know how many turkeys we go through, but ev...
Published: 11/22/17
Michael W. Smith talks Christmas songs, gun control, his friendship with Bono and more

Michael W. Smith talks Christmas songs, gun control, his friendship with Bono and more

On the morning after the mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Michael W. Smith had pain in his voice."It's awful, it's just awful," said the Grammy-winning Christian music superstar. "Everybody's going to have their opinion...
Published: 11/22/17
John McLaughlin talks about his final tour, jam bands, reviving the Mahavishnu Orchestra and more

John McLaughlin talks about his final tour, jam bands, reviving the Mahavishnu Orchestra and more

As you might imagine, quite a lot of thought goes into planning your final tour ever."It's not a light decision to not tour again, but that really is the situation," said John McLaughlin, the guitarist behind legendary jazz-rock fusion outfit the Mah...
Published: 11/22/17
Teen idol David Cassidy, ‘Partridge Family’ star, dies at 67

Teen idol David Cassidy, ‘Partridge Family’ star, dies at 67

David Cassidy, the former star of "The Partridge Family" TV hit of the 1970s and a reluctant teen idol to the boomer generation, died Tuesday evening of liver failure, his publicist confirmed. He was 67.The singer and actor died in Fort Lauderdale af...
Published: 11/21/17
Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

On the morning after the mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Michael W. Smith had pain in his voice. "It’s awful, it’s just awful," said the Grammy-winning Christian music superstar. "Everybody’s going to have their opinio...
Published: 11/21/17
The Eagles, Jimmy Buffett coming to Camping World Stadium in Orlando

The Eagles, Jimmy Buffett coming to Camping World Stadium in Orlando

Now you know what to get your dad for Christmas.The Eagles are hitting the road in 2018, and they're bringing along one of their best friends from the '70s: Jimmy Buffett. The tour will hit Orlando's Camping World Stadium on April 14 before moving to...
Published: 11/21/17
Legendary guitarist John McLaughlin talks about his last tour

Legendary guitarist John McLaughlin talks about his last tour

As you might imagine, quite a lot of thought goes into planning your final tour ever. "It’s not a light decision to not tour again, but that really is the situation," said John McLaughlin, the guitarist behind legendary jazz-rock fusion outfit...
Published: 11/21/17
Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

The 2017 American Music Awards marked a night of unison, positive vibes and American pride as musicians spoke about coming together in a year dominated by natural disasters, violence and divisive politics.Kelly Clarkson and Pink kicked off the three-...
Published: 11/20/17