Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 21 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Anselm of Canterbury
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Ry Cooder’s ‘The Prodigal Son’ instills reverence within blues

J-P Mauro - published on 04/16/18

A new blues album produced by father and son.

Legendary blues guitarist Ry Cooder has broken his 6 years of silence with a new album, The Prodigal Son, scheduled for release on May 11. The aging blues man, best known for his slide guitar, has put together a set of new interpretations of blues standards by Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Roosevelt Graves, and the Stanley Brothers, as well as a few original tracks.

The title tune, of course, is referencing the Parable of the Prodigal Son, from Luke 15:11-32. Each verse tells a little more of the story, while the chorus is sung from the perspective of the wandering son, who is weary of travel and wishes to return home.

Fittingly enough, Cooder co-produced The Prodigal Sonwith his own son, Joachim, who also handles the drum work on the album, and the above video. Both Ry and Joachim are proficient on several instruments, but Ry’s guitar work has previously led him to be named #8 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Of the album, Ry commented:

“I do connect the political/economic dimensions with the inner life of people, since people are at risk and oppressed on all sides in our world today,” Cooder said in a statement. “There’s some kind of reverence mood that takes hold when you play and sing these songs. ‘Reverence’ is a word I heard my granddaughter’s nursery school teacher use, a Kashmiri woman. She said, ‘We don’t want to teach religion, but instill reverence.’ I thought that was a good word for the feeling of this music.”

Cooder’s new arrangement of this old blues standard features just a four-piece band: guitar, bass, drums, and saxophone. The use of the saxophone is particularly interesting because it’s hooked up to an effects pedal so that it can play full chords as opposed to just single notes. This effect makes the woodwind sound like it’s an old wavery organ.

If you’re unfamiliar with the tune, it was popularized in the mid-20th century by The Sensational Nightingales. Here’s what their Gospel version sounds like:


If you’re interested in hearing Ry’s profound skill at the slide guitar, this track is a prime example:

Christian MusicGospel
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
New study shows that these 2 childhood habits make you a happier ...
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Cerith Gardiner
The lasting lesson from the late Prince Philip
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.