Tom Russell: mining a mighty rich vein

In my music review days, I’d sampled one of Tom Russell’s albums, a twisted and heartfelt immersion in the beat era called Hotwalker. It was like nothing I’d ever heard (featuring “vocals” from Bukowski, Kerouac, Bruce, Abbey, and even pulling in Dave Van Ronk to play guitar, wrapped in folk/story tales); it ended up filed on my CD closet shelf that’s labeled “Oddball/Strange Tales.”  So when I saw a few months back that he was coming to town, I snapped up a ticket with very little sense of what to expect; not surprisingly, Hotwalker was way out on the edge of Tom’s catalog, but my compass was tuned in for sure.  A true songwriting genius, Tom sings the lives of all sorts of folks, in riveting and heart-wrenching directness. A night with Tom Russell is an American history lesson of the highest order.

‘Nuff said by me.  Catch him if you can!  And here’s a few introductory earfulls:

From his newest album, the title track, honoring a young Hibbing boy and their shared lodestars:

This video from a rooftop in Dublin features Thad Beckman, the same guitarist he had with him in Santa Fe, an excellent duo, doing a fantastic song about Tom’s ’60’s stint in Africa, called East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam:

For a bunch more of Tom’s many facets, click on through

Stealing Electricity, live on Letterman:

Gallo del Cielo is one of his most famous tunes, thanks to Joe Ely running with it – a tale of a young Mexican man traveling through the southwest with dreams of buying back his family’s land on the exploits of his can’t-lose fighting rooster (this song presents a difficult quandary for the politically correct lefties among us: harumph at the brutality of cockfighting, or empathize with the life challenges of our Mexican brother – what to do, what to do? Aw, let’s just enjoy a tale well told!):

Another of his many songs charting the Mexican borderlands experience, Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall:

And finally, a touch of the heart:

ENCORE! With Calexico and Lucinda Williams, the closing track of Mesabi, a gripping nod to Bob and our times…

And a couple of shorts of Tom talking about his new album:

And to keep you company as you head home from this little show, here’s a site called MyPlay, which somehow links in with Spotify to share playlists; the link below will load a player with my favorite track from the new album, about Bobby Driscoll, Disney’s first live action star as an adolescent in the 40’s, then the voice and model for Peter Pan, before being dropped by Disney and spiraling downward (“the first child actor to move to Topanga Canyon, the first to hit the wall…”). From there, you can browse the rest of the album, and there’s a tab with most of Tom’s other releases, too. Go for it! Tom Russell in MyPlay

About Jim

Night sky watcher; a mobile bit of earth's body. One foot lingering in Lower Cañoncito's piñon-juniper foothills at the southern tip of the Rockies, the edge of the Great Plains stretching away from the mouth of our little valley a couple miles downstream. The other foot re-rooting into the Land of the White Pines, home of my blood and bones, amidst the coastal plain and glacial hills and ponds of southern Maine, between the North Atlantic and the bones of the ancient Appalachian Mountains.

Posted on 2011/11/29, in Jimwords, Live music lives!, Music. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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