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By: Alex Ashlock
Hearing Ry Cooder talk is like listening to a musical history lesson.
When he spoke to Here & Now‘s Robin Young, he talked about being influenced by Uncle Dave Macon, a pioneer in country music. Cooder says he styled the song “No Banker Left Behind” on his new CD after Macon’s work.
“It’s kind of like an old timey song,” Cooder said. “Uncle Dave Macon was a great balladeer and banjo player from the early part of the 19th century… He would take a social problem or something that he was looking at and make up a clever little song about it you know in a language everyone understood, a man of the people.”
Also known as “The Dixie Dewdrop,” Macon was born in Tennessee in 1870. He became one of the early stars on the stage of the Grand Olde Opry.
Macon died in 1952 and was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. For the last 34 years, his legacy has been honored with the “Uncle Dave Macon Days” music festival in Murfreeboro, Tennessee.
“It was the age of populist music in the 20s and 30s,” said Cooder of Macon’s music, “and they were rather good at writing about their daily lives, things that were happening to them, they were living through this, if you were a factory worker or sharecropper. Uncle Dave Macon he actually drove a beer truck.”
Cooder says he sees some of the same things that were happening in the 20s and 30s and during the Depression happening again today, and he wanted to interpret that in his songs.
“So it’s like let me do this now. I’ve been listening to this music all my life. I’m 64 years old. I’m so frustrated by what’s going on here in this country, so it’s nice therapy for me because then I don’t feel so bad. I turned it into something,” he said.
Ry Cooder’s new CD is called “Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down,” and it’s a great listen. Uncut Magazine calls it one of his best, and that’s saying a lot because Cooder has been recording for years.
Cooder is probably most famous for his collaboration with Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. But I’m partial to 1972’s “Into The Purple Valley,” and his soundtracks to films such as “Paris, Texas” and “The Long Riders.” His slide guitar work is perfectly suited to the pace and feel of those movies.