The third album in Cooder’s California trilogy, after Chavez Ravine and My Name Is Buddy, the guitar-slinging godhead continues to celebrate the musical heritage of his home state, taking in myriad genres and more misfit characters than you can shake a stick at. Drag racers, down-at-heel musos and even Tricky Dicky Nixon populate Cooder’s most rounded set of songs in years.
No-nonsense rocker Waitin’ For Some Girl nods in the direction of his old sparring partner John Hiatt, Can I Smoke In Here? pulls up a barstool between Lenny Bruce and Kris Kristofferson, while the anthem-in-waiting Drive Like I Never Been Hurt finds Springsteen hanging out with a mariachi band who’ve perhaps had one tequila too many.
Cooder’s previous investigations of American roots music have occasionally invited accusations of snobbery, a worthy archivist showing off with no real plan or purpose. I, Flathead is patently more accessible, the western swing of Steel Guitar Heaven and the jazz shuffle of My Dwarf Is Getting Tired as hummably memorable as they are thought-provoking.