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

Luke Thompson: Here on the Ground (Pure)

Luke Thompson: Here on the Ground (Pure)

This young singer-songwriter from Tauranga came to my attention a few weeks ago when I was asked if I would write a bio to accompany the release of this, his debut album. I get a few such... > Read more

Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells, The 2009 Stereo Mixes (Universal)

Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells, The 2009 Stereo Mixes (Universal)

For some reason I largely missed the Tubular Bells phenomenon back in '73 when the album was orginally released and launched the careers of 19 year old multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield and... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Rome, Italy: The only sure thing in life

Rome, Italy: The only sure thing in life

It's all in the odd juxtaposition really. Just off the Piazza Barberini in Rome with its magnificent Fountain of Triton by Bernini -- and only a short walk from the more famous Trevi Fountain -- is... > Read more

GUEST WRITER DAVINIA CADDY on her new book How to Hear to Classical Music

GUEST WRITER DAVINIA CADDY on her new book How to Hear to Classical Music

If you’re familiar with other books in Awa Press’s Ginger Series, you’ll be familiar with the ‘How to’ running motif. How to Look at a Painting, How to Gaze at the... > Read more