Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

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Tom Russell: Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?
Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

Some weeks ago I was invited to give a talk about some of my favourite music to a group of people in someone's home.

It was a very pleasant night and the first few things I played were either by the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell or his songs sung by others (notably Joe Ely covering the dramatic Gallo Del Cielo which I said I could envision as a film by John Huston).

Russell is a hard-edged writer whose style is often cinematic. He conjures up a sense of location and mood through simple but resonant imagery -- and he has a raw voice which brings the songs alive.

This collection pulls together others covering his songs (Johnny Cash, Dave Alvin, Ely doing that epic Gallo del Cielo, Doug Sahm, Ian Tyson with Nanci Griffith, Eliza Gilykson and others) with some tracks by Russell himself.

Given the calibre of those who have covered Russell's material it's fair to say he is one the finest songwriters around, and here is further evidence.

The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti says this of Russell: "[He] is Johnny Cash, Jim Harrison and Charles Bukowski rolled into one. I feel great affinity with Tom Russell's songs for he's writing out of the wounded heart of America".

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