One of the reasons there’s no great protest songs around these days is because people are afraid to get specific. It’s all very well knocking the fat cats and bankers (hello, Bruce) but why won’t anyone name names? Enter Cooder, who homes in first upon Mitt Romney’s dog, who used to get lashed to the roof of the car during family holidays (Mutt Romney Blues).
Cooder’s brain-taxing but brilliant mid-2000s California Trilogy investigated lost Latino communities and the failed promises of post-war progressivism. Last year, his social conscience was channelled into fierce, Guthrie-inspired dust-bowl tunes.
This 16th solo effort is broader musically, with bright country rock (Guantanamo), delicate mandolin lamentations (Brother Is Gone) and the roughest, toughest ‘president blues’, Cold, Cold Feeling, which imagines Obama wearing his shoes out pacing up and down the Oval Office.
He wrote it, produced it and played everything on it, so there’s a feel of the lone, bitter madman tearing his hair out in the garden shed. But don’t all the best protest songs have that?