Ry Cooder might have been tempted to bill this as the Chavez Ravine Social Club.
After generating such popular and critical interest in Cuban music of decades past with the Buena Vista Social Club, Cooder applied a similar approach closer to home, extending his fascination with the Mexican-American culture that flourished in 1940s and ’50s Los Angeles.
The result is an CD that sounds like it’s aspiring to be something far more ambitious: a DVD, a theatrical production, even a time machine.
Cooder and a cast of seminal Chicano artists present a song cycle that conjures an era of UFOs, the Red Scare, and political machinations that leveled the Chavez Ravine barrio to lure the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles.
In his celebration of a vibrant community that doesn’t know it’s on the verge of displacement, Cooder enlists Thee Midnighters vocalist Little Willie G. (whose songwriting collaboration with Los Lobos’s David Hidalgo on ½Onda Callejara½ highlights the album). and Pachuco patriarchs Don Tosti and Lalo Guerrero, with the latter reviving his dancefloor favorite ½Los Chucos Suaves.½
The accordion of Flaco Jimenez adds conjunto flavor to ½Barrio Viejo.½
Throughout the album, Cooder plays a typically tasteful, understatedly virtuosic guitar, assumes a variety of vocal roles--including a cool Chet Baker homage in duet with pianist Jacky Terrason on ½In My Town½--and provides the provocative social context