The only disappointing part of Ry Cooder's performance at the Bayou last night was the wealth of material he did not have time to sing. But an hour with Cooder is more rewarding than a long haul with most other musicians on the road today.
Cooder concentrated on playing guitar and continuing his love affair with R&B. His playing was impeccable, and on the extended instrumental tune, a languid "It's Gonna Work Out All Right," his slide work exhibited toe-curling sensuality. Throughout the night, Cooder displayed his sensitivity to the spaces in music: an eloquence that thrives as much on what's left out as on what's put in.
On old favorites like "Married Man's a Fool" and "Smack Dab in the Middle," Cooder swooped in on what Captain Beefheart (one of his first employers) aptly called "the mama heartbeat" -- an elemental rhythm well driven by Cooder's percussive guitar. Intermittently, many in the audience broke into a shuffling clap, accepting the rhythm and giving in with a grin.
Cooder is a sincere singer, but he's wise enough to surround himself with three even better voices. Vocal highlights were provided by the two black singers Cooder works with: Willie Greene's deep bass was astounding, while Bobbi King swooped from tenor fancies to incredible falsettos. Like all great chefs, Cooder surrounds himself with fine helpers and quality ingredients; his musical melting pot produces a delicious stew.