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Reissue of the Year: Rodriguez, Cold Fact 

Better late than neverIn 1970 Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit native, released his album, Cold Fact. Sales in the U.S. were dismal, and after a second

click to enlarge Better late than never
  • Better late than never
Better late than neverIn 1970 Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit native, released his album, Cold Fact. Sales in the U.S. were dismal, and after a second failed album Rodriguez left the music world. Now, 38 years later, a Seattle label, Light in the Attic Records, has re-issued Rodriguez's Cold Fact, causing many who hear it to stop and ask, "What took so long?"

Cold Fact comfortably fits in with today's folk scene, but it also stands apart with its ability to effortlessly maneuver a tight rope through a handful of genres. Yes, its base is acoustic folk, but some tracks possess a rock n' roll core ("Only Good for Conversation") while others come to life with the help of blues and jazz elements ("Inner City Blues," "I Wonder").

Horn sections, string arrangements, electric fuzz, a children's choir and steel drums all make appearances throughout the twelve tracks, but the album also feels whole and connected, woven together by an underlying psychedelic influence that's never overbearing thanks to Rodriguez's sobering lyrics. Cold Fact is filled with reflections on pained love, drugs, the forgotten who fill the inner cities and fall through the cracks of our conscious and the overall hypocrisy, injustice and sadness of the world that so many collectively view as inevitable.

Despite the intervening decades, Rodriguez still speaks to contemporary listeners. His writing is at times intimate and sharp, ("Soon you know I'll leave you / And I'll never look behind / 'Cause I was born for the purpose / That crucifies your mind) and at others angry and explosive. ("The priest is preaching from a shallow grave / He counts his money, then he paints you saved")

On another level, Cold Fact is a testament to the innately American idea of second chances. Wrongs can be righted, and in this case justice was served with the re-issuing of Cold Fact. We can only hope that the same can be said for some of the problems Rodriguez explores in his music. After 38 years of greatness ignored and finally uncovered, that seems somehow a little more possible. - Matthew Etter


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