A-Z of Dead Man Singing: I

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: I

95 days ago

I is for ‘I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine’, a beautiful Ry Cooder instrumental which seemed like a perfect note of optimism on which to end the story. You can find it on his Bop Till You Drop album. If there is ever a film version of the novel (I’m open to offers, just saying), it would make a perfect soundtrack for the end credits.

Ry Cooder is one of those musicians who I initially intended to have a bigger role in Dead Man Singing. Dave and Cindy’s discussion about authenticity at the beginning of part 2 was originally written with the couple on their way to see Cooder and David Lindley at Hammersmith Odeon (see my earlier post ‘D is for’ for my memories of that show in real life), but the pacing of the story meant I had to cut the gig, reallocating the praise to Richard Thompson (of whom it is equally true).

John Hiatt’s album Bring the Family crops up in Dead Man Singing, a career-defining highlight for Hiatt, and featuring Cooder, along with producer/bass player Nick Lowe and drummer Jim Keltner, as a near-perfect backing group. Recorded on a shoe-string budget in just four days, the album was a turning point for Hiatt, providing him with a career-defining record that dominated his live shows for years to come. It’s an album I return to regularly, and Cooder’s slide guitar, along with Hiatt’s rasping country-blues vocals are front and centre for most of the album. Apparently, there are no unreleased tracks for the album – everything they recorded went on the final product, and there is absolutely no filler: it’s all fantastic.

The chemistry between the four men was so good that they subsequently formed a band, Little Village, although scheduling conflicts meant it took them five years to do so (they jokingly issued a press release revealing that the group was going to be called ‘Hiatus’). Possibly due to the delay, the resulting eponymous album failed to live up to the heights of Bring the Family. One of the great ‘what might have been’ moments of the late 80s rock scene.

Cooder has continued to set his own course through the music industry, crossing cultures at will and collaborating with musicians from as far afield as Cuba (Buena Vista Social Club), Mali (Ali Farke Toure) and India (Vishwa Mohan Bhatt), among others. He’s played sessions for musicians as disparate as Captain Beefheart, the Rolling Stones, the Chieftains, the Monkees and Eric Clapton, and recorded more than a dozen film soundtracks. It’s a musical life well lived, and I think it worked out fine.

What are your favourite instrumental tracks? What makes a great instrumental?

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