Tom Russell doesn't simply play old school country folk, he IS old school country folk.
Born in LA in the late 1940s, his songs have been covered by such luminaries as Johnny Cash, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Nanci Griffith and Doug Sahm. He has made a whopping 35 albums, written five books and still finds time to paint, get a master's degree (in criminology) and hit the road.
As well as being inspired by fellow troubadour musicians, his muses are literary ones and include esteemed authors like Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Charles Bukowski and James Joyce.
The Sparrow Of Swansea is a tribute to Thomas and is also one of many tunes in which hard drinking is celebrated as a badge of honor. Another is The Dram House Down In Gutter Lane with lyrics partly derived from 16th century slang.
There are plenty of nods to Russell's real or imagined Celtic ancestry and other dedications are to Canadian singer-songwriter and close friend Ian Tyson (I'll Never Leave These Old Horses), Hank Williams (The Last Time I Saw Hank), the Chelsea Hotel (Up In The Old Hotel) and even President John F. Kennedy (Rise Again Handsome Johnny).
His backing musicians include Joel Guzman on accordion and Redd Volkaert on guitar while Augie Meyers adds a vocal and piano intro to Harlan Clancy. All these are semi legendary figures on the Americana circuit.
One of the two bonus tracks is a cover of Dylan's Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues where he is accompanied by Joe Ely.
The experience and expertise that Russell brings to this album means that, in terms of authenticity, it is almost above criticism but beyond the nostalgia value I can't help feeling that its appeal and audience is a relatively narrow one and is destined to get even smaller as time goes by.
Tom Russell's website