Bentley's Bandstand: Ry Cooder, Glen Campbell, Junior Wells

By , Columnist
Ry Cooder, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down. By this point, Ry Cooder has shown us enough sides where it's obvious there isn't anything he can't do. As a guitarist, it's like he's crossed haiku poetry with higher mathematics, creating a world that is unlimited. There isn't anyone like him and probably won't be again. Each new album is a turn onto a street we haven't quite seen before, and the way Cooder builds his own musical world continues to thrill.
 
Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down gathers a trunk full of different styles, and is put together so each one sounds brand new. There is bluesy folk, Tex-Mex bliss, gorgeous ballads, and even a John Lee Hooker-inspired lament. You can almost see Ry Cooder chuckling away to himself when he's finished recording each one, knowing he's topped even himself. The Southern Californian has never been shy about bringing his entertainment with him.
 
For those looking for unique guitaristics, a voice soaked in experience and dripping with wisdom propelled by a philosophical outlook that revels in reality but never loses hope, seek no further than Mr. C. He always aims for the bullseye and never really misses. Ry Cooder has been recording albums over 40 years and, believe it or not, still sounds like he's just getting started.  Open the door and let the man come in.
 
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Glen Campbell, Ghost on the Canvas. For an album that Glen Campbell is calling his final studio effort, he gets close enough to perfection to possibly call it quits. He says his advancing Alzheimer's could well end his career, so he decided to go for the gusto now and give these songs his all. It works so well that the results stave off the sadness of thinking this might be it.
 
Listening to "A Better Place" or "It's Your Amazing Grace" is like peeking in on a private prayer session as Campbell's voice breaks with emotion. He may not always remember what exactly is happening to his memory, but with songs like this the heart can't help but ache at what is going on. Co-producer Julian Raymond had a hand in writing some of these songs, and the way he can zero in on Glen Campbell's current state is uncanny. It's almost like he is the singer's other half. Other songwriters Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan, and Robert Pollard add their own touch of the eternal to Ghost on the Canvas, and complete the circle.
 
There aren't many modern musicians who have gone to the mountaintop Glen Campbell has. A temporary Beach Boy in the mid-'60s, not to mention a first-chair guitarist in Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew, soon led to massive Campbell pop hits and his own network television series.

Even a later fall from grace didn't put Campbell down for the count long. He always came back, and for his final round he shines brighter than ever. It's like Roky Erickson once sang: "If you have ghosts then you have everything - in this world."

Junior-Wells_Hoodoo-Man-Blues_CD-Reissue.jpgJunior Wells' Chicago Blues Band, Hoodoo Man Blues. There are a dozen or so blues albums made in the last 60 years that defy gravity and beg to be bought. And, yes, bought again when an expanded edition comes out that shows why this music is a true lifeline to eternity. Junior Wells made one of those keepers a long time ago and its recent reemergence is cause for celebration.
 
When it was first released in the '60s, Hoodoo Man Blues might not have seemed like an instant classic. Maybe that's because it was so real it blended in with the weather. Junior Wells was a singer and harp player who had come up after Little Walter and the first wave of Chicago bluesmen, but he was second-string to no one. He had a bad-ass persona and low-down feel, so when he hooked up with guitarist Buddy Guy for these sessions it was like the Windy City was unleashing another pair of pathfinders on the world. There were no tricks involved, just rough and tough playing crossed with cutthroat songs. No more was needed to mark their spot.
 
Additional tracks are included here, as well as some studio chatter captured during the sessions. It gives a great glimpse into the real lives of these working bluesmen, not to mention their caustic humor and zest for life. A few years later Junior Wells lost his way some in show business trappings and too much attention. On these songs, though, he cuts straight to the center of the blues universe and shows why this music will always be that place where the soul of man lives forever.

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Bill Bentley got his first drum set in 1965 and still has it. He's been a deejay, record store clerk, publicist, writer, concert promoter, record producer and a&r director, sometimes all at once. He's worked at KUT-FM, Austin City Limits, L.A. Weekly, Slash Records, Warner Bros. Records and Vanguard…

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