Tom Russell "Raw Vision -- The Tom Russell Band: 1984-1994" (Rounder-Philo, 2005)
A fifteen-song retrospective of latter-day folk/boho troubadour Tom Russell's work on the Philo label, drawing on five albums he recorded over the course of a decade... And a few previously unreleased bonus goodies as well!
Tom Russell "Veteran's Day: The Tom Russell Anthology" (Shout Factory, 2008)
Tom Russell & Patricia Hardin "The Early Years: 1975-79" (Dark Angel, 1994)
A twofer reissue of two long out-of-print albums, Ring Of Bone, from 1976, and Wax Museum, from '78.
Tom Russell & Patricia Hardin "Ring Of Bone" (Demo, 1976) (LP)
Tom Russell & Patricia Hardin "Wax Museum" (Demo, 1978) (LP)
Tom Russell Band "Heart On A Sleeve" (Rounder-Philo, 1984)
Tom Russell Band "Road To Bayamon" (Rounder-Philo, 1987)
Tom Russell Band "Poor Man's Dream" (Rounder-Philo, 1989)
Tom Russell Band "Hurricane Season" (Rounder-Philo, 1991)
Tom Russell "Cowboy Real" (Rounder-Philo, 1991)
Tom Russell "Box Of Visions" (Rounder-Philo, 1993)
Tom Russell & Barrence Whitfield "Hillbilly Voodoo" (East Side Digital, 1993)
Tom Russell & Barrence Whitfield "Cowboy Mambo" (East Side Digital, 1994)
Tom Russell "Rose Of The San Joaquin" (Hightone, 1995)
Tom Russell "The Long Way Around: The Acoustic Collection" (Hightone, 1997)
Tom Russell "Song Of The West: The Cowboy Collection" (Hightone, 1997)
On this disc for the Hightone label, Russell chose to re-record several of his older songs, since the original versions were largely in limbo at the time...
Tom Russell "The Man From God Knows Where" (Hightone, 1999)
Tom Russell "Borderland" (Hightone, 2001)
Tom Russell "Modern Art" (Hightone, 2003)
Tom Russell "Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs" (Hightone, 2004)
(Produced by Tom Russell)
I guess I'm just a weak, flawed man, limited by my humanity and preconceptions, but I just can't hang with this concept-album poetic/profound brand of Americana... It's just too indulgent and laborious to hold my attention. But, as I said, it might be my problem, not Russell's. Anyway, this is a set of story songs, many centering on the Texas/Mexico border... It's kind of fun hearing Russell cover songs like Dylan's epic "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts," or Marty Robbins' "El Paso," although it's still kind of a chore to get through it all, and while devoted fans will probably love this, for me it wasn't a keeper. The Dylan cover is fun, particularly since Russell is joined by fellow folkies Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Ely, who take lead vocals on several verses, each taking on the "voice" of one of the song's characters.
Tom Russell "Hotwalker" (HighTone, 2005)
It took me a long time to get around to reviewing this record... Russell's work tends to be thematically dense and require active listening and some mental heavy lifting, and these days I'm kinda pressed for time and a little bit of an airhead. But, finally, one night as I drifted off to sleep, I popped Hotwalker into the stereo and let in unfold. It's a pretty cool album. Russell pays convincing homage to the bygone days of the beatniks and outsiders of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, when "rebel" still rhymed with "outlaw," and alternative, countercultural lifestyles hadn't yet been packed in shrinkwrap for the irony-numbed masses hanging out in the malls. This is mostly a spoken-word record, with a circus calliope and a but of twang providing the musical backdrop for Russell's, gruff-voiced nostalgia -- he apparently hung out with writer Charles Bukowski many moons ago, but it's his recollections of folk bluesman Dave Van Ronk's tiny New York apartment that really drew me in. In conjuring the rough-hewn, square-peg individualism of the Beats and the free-thinkers of his youth, Russell deftly manages to avoid all the traps of language that have allowed mainstream culture to trivialize and shunt aside the cultural shifts of the 'Sixties... There's no talk here of hippies or bra-burners or freedom riders, just of the personal journey of a kid from Southern California who felt the pull of roots music and earthy, American culture -- all of which rings quite true today, when entire lives feel mediated and prepackaged to a depressing degree. Its nice to remember a time when the open road was really open, an you never knew quite where it would go...
Tom Russell "Love & Fear" (HighTone, 2006)
(Produced by Tom Russell & Gurf Morlix)
In the last few years, songwriter Tom Russell has built up a reputation as an Americana auteur given to sculpting dense, ambitious (and impactful) concept albums; this disc is notable for the catchiness and clarity of the individual songs. It's packed with chunky, challenging tunes that, while they may not be hummable pop ditties, nonetheless have a way of getting under your skin and making your toes tap. They're also gritty and hard-hitting, miniature indictments of the hardships and heartbreak of modern life. The input of co-producer Gurf Morlix, a mover-and-shaker on the Austin scene, probably has a lot to do with how seductive and immediate this album is. While Russell's other albums have heft to them that will pay off well for attentive listeners, this disc is more readily accessible and requires less heavy lifting on the part of listeners... I think it also makes the same points as the other stuff, just in a way that lends itself better to the confines of radio playlists and busy lifestyles. Anyway, it's pretty darn good. I was pleasantly surprised.
Tom Russell "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?" (EP) (Hightone, 2006)
Tom Russell/Various Artists "The Wounded Heart Of America" (Hightone, 2007)
Tom Russell & Gretchen Peters "One To The Heart, One To The Head" (Scarlet Letter/Frontera, 2009)
Tom Russell "Blood And Candle Smoke" (Shout Factory, 2009)
Tom Russell "Mesabi" (Shout Factory, 2011)
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