The Buddy of the title is a cat. That’s right, a four-pawed, milklapping cat. But unlike other moggies, Cooder’s feline friend walks the earth in search of a political education, seeking out democracy at every turn. Along the way he tells tales of a green dog, a pig called J Edgar and Hank Williams, in an intriguing song-cyle that’s part Kerouac, part Orwell, and part Dr Seuss.
This being Cooder, the musicianship is exemplary throughout, as he flits between bluegrass, R&B, Tex-Mex and dustbowl folk, ably assisted by big guns such as Van Dyke Parks and Flaco Jiminez. It’s also a fine way to put across a parable at the very time when a dozen or so senators and congressmen are gearing up to announce their intentions to run for the White House in 2008.
Accompanying the fanciful but thought-provoking tunes, Cooder has written a booklet outlining Buddy’s exploits, illustrated by noted sketch artist Vincent Valdez. It truly fleshes out the central character: an everyman figure who just wants to see everyone get a fair shake. At last, a political allegory you can dance to.