Roadkill Stereo: Ry Cooder’s ‘I, Flathead’ Album

I’ve been meaning to talk cars and music more often since this post and Speed Week at Bonneville affords me that chance. Guitarist and songwriter Ry Cooder has played with just about everyone and everywhere since the 1960s. His work tends to cover all things Americana, but today we’re concerned with his 2008 concept album I, Flathead: The Songs of Kash Buk and the Klowns.

The 14-track album—along with a short novel by Cooder—tells the tale of Kash Buk, a beatnik who races a Ford Flathead-powered streamliner at Bonneville and plays in a country band. Not too many musicians write songs about the Salt Flats, which is a dang shame. Chicago band Dianogah mentions a line that may be about land-speed racing in this song, but that might also just be about using back roads to wale on cars. We’d never recommend that.

Regardless, Speed Week puts on display land-speed racing’s real Wild West nature and I’m pretty happy to listen to Cooder sing about it (and other topics, of course). It may or may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but listen to a couple different tracks from the album on Spotify or on YouTube on the stereo if you can find a physical copy of it. Here is I, Flathead’s opening track “Drive Like I’ve Never Been Hurt” along with another great track from it, “Waitin’ for Some Girl.”

If you’re wondering about the car on the album cover, that’s the famous So-Cal Streamliner, built and raced by Alex Xydias and the So-Cal Speed Shop. It’s one of the most important machines in the history of hot-rodding, and you can learn all about it in this HOT ROD Magazine story.


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Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover