It's shaping up to be a banner decade for cat-themed concept records (Donald Fagan's Morph the Cat, anyone?). Ry Cooder's Buddy was allegedly inspired by a piece of fan mail that included a photo of a feline head superimposed on Lead Belly's body. The record paints vignettes of the life and times of Buddy Red Cat, a kitty on the prowl in dust bowl America. Somehow, this concept works, helped greatly by Cooder's impeccable blues playing and tasteful production. The rowdy, protesting grind "One Cat, One Vote, One Beer" is a highlight.