By Barry Wightman
Ry Cooder, the guitarist widely known these days for Buena Vista Social Club, in which he showcased pre-Castro era Cuban musicians, now offers the world the melodic and jumpy Chavez Ravine.
The beautifully packaged Nonesuch CD includes a booklet worthy of a very small coffee table. The record has a handmade, non-digital feel with an airy sound that hints at L.A.’s El Hoyo Club in 1955. The record’s opening track, “Poor Man’s Paradise,” is driven by Cooder’s clean guitar and jazzy harmonies; “El UFO Cayo” is a slow, dreamy, late night swirl of guitars. “Muy Fifi” rocks with a thumping bass under L.A. legend Ersi Arvizu’s gutsy vocals. “3rd Base Dodger Stadium,” a lovely lament sung beautifully by Hawaiian singer Bla Pahinui, recounts how former residents of Chavez Ravine can pinpoint where their own home plate used to be. We should all be so lucky. VS