Tom Russell: Blood and Candle Smoke (Proper/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Tom Russell: Crosses of San Carlos
Tom Russell: Blood and Candle Smoke (Proper/Southbound)

Tom Russell is a cinematic singer-songwriter whose storytelling is compelling, and whose whisky’n’grit vocals can take you to the heart of Tex-Mex territory.

The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti said he was “Johnny Cash, [poet and novelist] Jim Harrison and [barfly writer] Charles Bukowski rolled into one“.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Russell spent time in Nigeria during the Biafran war of the late 60s. East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam which opens this strong album is about the juju magic he discovered there while his peers were in those places of the title.

The other side of that experience is the oddly upbeat autobiographical Criminology (“I had a gun pointed at my head on several occasions”) but -- typical of Russell -- the story changes (the death of Picasso, grizzly bears walking down a street in Canada) then loops back.

He sings of the spirit of Nina Simone (“the darkest of ravens”), how Americans name rivers after Indian tribes out of guilt, of ghosts and children in Guadalupe, and “two Apache kids in a stolen car, navigating by a falling star”.

Poetry and personal revelation set to edgy Americana from his small band (Gretchen Peters, members of Calexico), and lyrics peppered with dark Catholic imagery.

Despite a more faltering voice, Russell remains a rare one.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

If you are bit over bands reforming to tour their classic album or just to pick up the cheque, then put aside such cynicism for this, the return album from former riot grrrls Sleater-Kinney who... > Read more

Eels: Wonderful, Glorious (Universal)

Eels: Wonderful, Glorious (Universal)

Mark Everett (aka Eels) has written albums about family death/illness (not as bleak as that sounds, but dark nonetheless), knows his way around an uplifting pop song and on Hombre Loco (2009)... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Pollo Adobo (chicken, Filipino style)

Pollo Adobo (chicken, Filipino style)

Alan offers this alarmingly simple recipe for a chicken dish from the Philippines. Couldn't be easier -- or more tasty. INGREDIENTS 4 skinned chicken breasts 1 cup water 1 cup white... > Read more

VIETNAM IN 1969: A true story

VIETNAM IN 1969: A true story

In 1969, as an 18-year old, I went to Vietnam. Not to fight of course, but as a short-term "tourist". It was a brief event in a long life but confirmed for me even at that early age... > Read more