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I, Flathead

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  • Ry Cooder's "Live in San Francisco" Featured in The New Yorker

    Ry Cooder's first live record in more than 35 years, Live in San Francisco, is featured in an article from The New Yorker's Alec Wilkinson titled "Ry Cooder, Live Again." Wilkinson traces Cooder's career through his studio recordings—"Cooder’s catalogue, reflecting his capacious intelligence, is the broadest and deepest in popular music"—to the new live album. "The solos open like rooms, one into another," writes Wilkinson. "Some of the rooms are still as night, and in others the audience shouts like congregants cheering a preacher."

  • Ry Cooder Talks with KPFK's Jon Weiner About New Album, "Live in San Francisco"

    Ry Cooder's new album, Live in San Francisco, his first live album in more than 35 years, was released earlier this month. He spoke about the new album on the 4 O'Clock Report with Jon Wiener on Pacifica Radio's KPFK 90.7FM Los Angeles yesterday afternoon; the show also includes four tracks from the new album: “Crazy ‘bout an Automobile,” “Do Re Mi,” “Lord Tell Me Why,” and “School Is Out." The Morton Report says of Cooder's new album: "Once this man hits the high beams and races into it, there is A+ action guaranteed ... It's called live music and there is nothing better."

About this Album

Click here to hear songs from the album, read an excerpt from the I, Flathead novella, and learn more about the cover image.

Ry Cooder completes his California trilogy (which began with 2005’s Chavez Ravine and 2007’s My Name Is Buddy) with I, Flathead, an album of music by the fictional musician Kash Buk and his band the Klowns, characters in Cooder’s 95-page novella. The album and novella were released together on June 24, 2008, by Nonesuch / Perro Verde Records.

The novella tells the story of Kash Buk and his friend Shakey the alien, along with various friends, lovers, enemies, and associates in a bygone California filled with deserts, salt-flat racing, Native Americans, seedy dance halls, amusement parks, and sinister plots. The album comprises fourteen songs by Buk, a hard-boiled salt flat racer and roadhouse musician. With the story and the music, Cooder creates a universe where “strange people are the norm,” drawing from country western music, popular mechanics magazines, and science fiction films.

Following Chavez Ravine, which examined loss of place and history, and My Name Is Buddy, which explored the loss of solidarity and unity, I, Flathead reflects change and disruption in a young, post-war, do-it-yourself culture of outsiders obsessed with racing cars fashioned from military surplus parts and flathead engines.

As Kash Buk explains, “You got your hard times, your good times, a dog story for you animal lovers, and a forbidden-race love song, which every record ought to have at least one of. You’re going to meet the ghost of Dick Nixon the drag racer, plus a bonus Red-Scare speciality for all you politically-minded hi-brow foot-stompers out there. I felt it was important to include a circus story since most people agree the circus is a mirror for ‘life itself.’ And you can’t say you got a record album unless there is a selection of honky-tonk heart-ache ballats, so I took care of the ballat chores for you.” He continues, “And I spatially wanted to pay o-mage to the steel guitar legends of yore. It has been my privilege to know quite a few. That’s a hard-bitten, un-sung fraternity, and I figured if I remember them, some body might remember me some day and raise a glass some where and put a nickel in the juke-box.”

Cooder produced the album and wrote or co-wrote all the songs. He sings and plays mandolin, guitar, and bass on the album, along with Mariachi Los Camperos; Joachim Cooder, and Jim Keltner on drums; Rene Camacho on bass; Francisco Torres on trombone; Ron Blake and Jon Hassell on trumpet; Anthony Gil on bass sax; Flaco Jimenez on accordion, Gil Bernal on tenor sax; Jared Smith on keyboards; Martin Pradler on electric piano and drums; and Juliette Commagere on vocals.


Ry Cooder, vocals (1-13), guitar (1-14), mandolin (1), bass (1, 2, 14), laud (10), electric piano (11)
Joachim Cooder, drums (1, 3, 5, 8-14), timbales (7)
Martin Pradler, drums (2, 4)
Rene Camacho, bass (3, 5-11, 13)
Jim Keltner, drums (6, 7)
Erika, screaming cheerleader (6)
Josh, Flathead (6)
Fernando Ruleas,  himself (8)
Francisco Torres, trombone (8)
Ron Blake, trumpet (8)
Anthony Gil, bass sax (8)
Flaco Jimenez, accordion (10)
Gil Bernal, tenor sax (12)
Jon Hassell, trumpet (12)
Jared Smith, keyboards (12)
Martin Pradler, electric piano (13)
Juliette Commagere, vocals (14)

Produced by Ry Cooder
Recorded and mixed by Martin Pradler at Little Pink Studio, Los Angeles
additional recording at Sage And Sound Studios, Hollywood, assisted by Alex Pavlides
Ocean Studio, Burbank, assisted by Albert Mata
Mastered by Stephen Marcussen @ Marcussen Mastering

All songs written by Ry Cooder (Hi-Lo Shag Music BMI), except tracks 1, 14 also by Joachim Cooder (Zegama Beach Music BMI), track 12 also by Joachim Cooder, Jared Smith (Privy Seal Music ASCAP)
Mariachi Los Camperos arrangement (track 1), string arrangement (tracks 7, 9, 10) by Jesus Guzman

Package Design: Martin Pradler, Ry Cooder
Cover Photo: © Ron Kellogg Collection

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