Last year’s Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down was far and away the most political album of Cooder’s lengthy career – until this one. Where the focus of its predecessor’s wrath was Wall Street fat cats and corrupt corporations, Election Special, as the title suggests, aims its barbs at the politicos within the Beltway of Washington DC.
The opening Mitt Romney Blues forcefully establishes the agenda: a rattling junkyard shuffle that ponders the moral fibre of the Republican presidential candidate beyond his party’s manifesto. Elsewhere, the grizzled slow blues of Cold Cold Feeling eavesdrops on Barack Obama and the loneliness of inhabiting the Oval Office. More specific policy issues come under scrutiny on the folky, finger-picked The 90 And The Nine (military recruiters in public schools), while both Going To Tampa and Kool-Aid address the distasteful points-scoring political fallout from the controversial neighbourhood watch shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida earlier this year.
Serious stuff, for sure, but Cooder’s lyrical examinations are liberally spiced with wit and wisdom, his bubbling cauldron of blues, folk and country the perfect sonic palette for intrinsically American subject matter. At no point is Cooder arrogant enough to suggest he has all the answers but, time and again, he reiterates the importance of asking questions.