Album reviews: David Guetta, Ry Cooder, Robert Earl Keen - Reverb

Album reviews: David Guetta, Ry Cooder, Robert Earl Keen

David Guetta, “Nothing but the Beat” (EMI)

Those not following pop music won’t likely recognize David Guetta’s name, but they know his beats. Remember the Black Eyed Peas’ ubiquitous pop smash “I Gotta Feeling”? That was all Guetta. And Kelly Rowland’s “When Love Takes Over” and Akon’s “Sexy Bitch?” They were on Guetta’s CD, “One Love.”

The influential French DJ/producer is back with his official follow-up to “One Love.” “Nothing but the Beat,” out today, sounds all too similar to Guetta’s first big outing. In fact, the lead-off track here, “Where Them Girls At” (featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida), sounds like a kissing cousin to “Sexy Bitch.”

Do the kids care? Nah. They just want something fresh for the dance floor.

Most of the record is aimed at the pop market — think LoDo dance clubs — but there are a few more traditional electronic tracks. And Guetta’s crafty collaboration with Afrojack, “Lunar,” is a stunner. The instrumental sounds like a genius B-side from Daft Punk’s “Tron” soundtrack, a futuristic whomp of energy and groove.

Ry Cooder, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down” (Nonesuch)

Ry Cooder dug deep, back to his earliest musical roots, to find inspiration for his latest album, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down,” which comes out today. And with these old-timey arrangements, he tells some modern, ripped-from-the-headlines tales — as seen through his own looking glass.

Cooder isn’t the first to ask: How did so many bank executives profit massively from the bank bailouts? But he is the first to write a song from the perspective of Jesse James, a notorious bank robber in his day, as he looks down from heaven and asks for his gun back so he can cut the bankers “down to size.”

“Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down” doesn’t sound like an angry record, with melodies that switch off between Appalachian folk and traditional Mexican music. But with each new song, you’ll come across some sort of accusation.

Given its subject matter, it’s a surprisingly listenable record. It’s not like watching “Inside Job” — the documentary that took on Goldman Sachs and its brethren — where you come out fuming and pointing fingers. This is a protest record at its core, but it sounds like a breezy and diverse Cooder album first and foremost.

Robert Earl Keen, “Ready for Confetti” (Lost Highway)

For his 16th album, Robert Earl Keen is ushering in a new era of his career while still paying tribute to his beginnings.

The alt-country crooner experiments with sound on “Ready,” out today, infusing the title track with a breezy Jimmy Buffett swagger and tossing “Waves on the Ocean” to a reggae- styled guitar. Yes, Keen must have been craving a little sunshine while writing this LP, which he did mostly on the road, as opposed to his normal spot in a solitary cabin.

But as he plays with the aesthetics of his music, he also delves back into his catalog to cover his own classic ballad, “Paint the Town Beige,” from his 1993 record “A Bigger Piece of Sky.” (He wanted a “clearer, cleaner” version, he said.) It’s a legendary song, and while it doesn’t differ all that much from the original record, it’s a pleasure to have another studio version.

Keen is a respected songwriter, and for good reason. But he’s best when he’s clearly having fun. He has a good time with CD-opener “Black Baldy Stallion,” a melodic tongue- twister of a country song that spins a memorable yarn. Like most of the other songs here, it’s breezy and warm. But its intricate lyricism sets it apart from the rest of Keen’s catalog, and it’ll surely become a live favorite in the next tour or two.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

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