TOM RUSSELL ‘October In The Railroad Earth’ – CD


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When it comes to contributions to traditional American art forms, there’s not much left that hasn’t been touched by the hands of the criminally under-recognised songsmith Tom Russell. From having his songs cut by the likes of Johnny Cash, Guy Clark, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, to toting the likes of Fats Kaplin around in his touring band as a performer on the honky tonk circuit for so many years, to writing a book with Charles Bukowski, Tom Russell has done it all.

Honestly, what can we expect a now 70-something Tom Russell to have left in the tank? The words and stories he’s expended at this point are enough for two lifetimes. But he takes the challenge and proceeds to scratch out a record that is better than most of the debuts by the whipper snappers in Texas or east Nashville. As a guy known for dabbling in the folk rock and Americana realm, there is ample steel guitar here, Bill Kirchen on telecaster, and songs steeped in country traditions to make even the most closed-minded smile. Self-described as “Jack Kerouac meets Johnny Cash in Bakersfield,” Russell co-produced the album with long-time cohort, Austin’ s Mark Hallman.

This album is a story of America, and who better to tell it than Tom Russell. He is past the point of having to call upon sheer imagination, chemically-induced inspiration, or dogged determination to compose a story. He simply has to access his memory banks for a good tale, trust his proven capacity with language, and the rest handles itself. His years have only embellished and refined his wit and craftsmanship, and he never lost his hunger along the way. There are good reasons why Russell is so revered by his musical and literary peers, and those reasons remain evident on October in the Railroad Earth.