“The mbira has a sort of otherworldly, cinematic sound – such a beautiful quality. It’s like my little meditation.”
– Joachim Cooder
Every once in a great while an album comes along and turns your musical ear on its ear. Reinterpreting the century-old, country roots and blues music of Uncle Dave Macon, Joachim Cooder slowed the tempo, tweaked the melodies, and uniquely blended the instruments and vocal harmonies to create a warm soundscape that more than elevates the songs, it suspends them in time.
For decades, Joachim has performed as a drummer and percussionist with his father, guitarist Ry Cooder, as well as composing soundtracks for film and television. “As an accompanist, it allows me to go into a situation and ask, ‘How can I exalt this? How can I lift it?’” he says. So he took the traditional banjo songs that Ry played for him when he was a child and he began playing them for his own children – but Joachim doesn’t play the banjo. His instrument of choice is an electric mbira, a sort of grand variation of the African thumb piano, which spans several octaves and produces a harp-chime sound that’s almost orchestral in its beauty.
With Joachim’s mbira as centerpiece, Ry joins in on banjo – choosing on some songs to play 19th century antiques that make a softer, more exotic sound than plucky new models. The sonic pairing is sublime, and when supported by fiddle, guitar and voice produces a hypnotic and powerful collection of songs that shouldn’t be missed. “So much modern music is overwrought and in your face,” Joachim says. “I hope this music will give people space to see into these great old songs.”