by Wayne Bledsoe
Just listening to Ry Cooder's catalog is like taking a college course in music, but a lot more fun. His albums have celebrated blues, folk, calypso, early jazz, rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, gospel and the music of the Southwest, Hawaii, Cuba and Africa. He's helped the world know about the glories of Hawaiian master Gabby Pahinui, Tex-Mex accordion great Flaco Jimenez, Malian guitar virtuoso Ali Farka Toure, Indian musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Cuban all-star group collectively known as the Buena Vista Social Club. In addition, he's performed on albums by The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Arlo Guthrie, Randy Newman, Judy Collins, The Monkees, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Captain Beefheart, John Hiatt, Bill Frisell, Taj Mahal, Warren Zevon and many others.
It's surprising, though, to hear that one of Cooder's first musical loves is bluegrass and he's now on a tour in a collaboration with musical couple and bluegrass greats Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White.