Aug 11

Ry Cooder: “Goodnight Irene”


Skeletophilia: NOT a word that I just made up, as it turns out.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled “Recent Travels” programming for this brief hurricane-related intrusion. All points on the East Coast of the United States are hereby advised to stay indoors in a safe location today and listen to the entire Reselect playlist for as long as they are with power. After the power goes out, just sing the songs to yourself in your head, while you hunker down to ride the storm out. In particular, you may want to wish that nasty storm known as “Irene” a very hasty “goodnight” to get it gone and on its way. Although you may know that “Goodnight Irene” was first recorded by the legendary folk-blues singer/convict Leadbelly (although not necessarily written by him, as it’s one of those folk standards with very hazy origins), you might find it most enjoyable and distracting to sing to yourself this excellent Mexican norteño-styled version by Ry Cooder, which he released on his excellent 1976 album, Chicken Skin Music, and which thereby successfully continues the recent tradition known as “Cover Friday” here at Reselect.

You might also want to keep yourself occupied wondering what “chicken skin music” is, but if you need to know ahead of time, “chicken skin” is a Hawaiianism for “goosebumps,” and Cooder was at the time working with great Hawaiian slack-key guitarists Atta Isaacs and Gabby Pahinui — hence, the music is so good as to give you goosebumps. Readers are advised that they may find themselves with “chicken skin” both upon listening to this song and listening to the wind and rain blowing against their windows. But hang tight: Irene will indeed go not-so-softly into the good night eventually, yet this song will remain to listen to again and again and remind yourself of the excitement of that passing storm.

To all my friends and family on the East Coast, please stay dry and safe!

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