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Tom Russell - Blood and Candle Smoke

By Andrew vaughan

 

 
Twenty five years and twenty odd albums on from his debut Tom Russell is more relevant than ever. He is the consummate songwriter. An heir to Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt and with his latest album Blood and Candle Smoke he continues his exploration of America and beyond through twelve panoramic vignettes and tightly-crafted songs.

 

Here Russell delves back to his time teaching in Africa during the sixties in East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam and Criminology. Recalls the first time he heard the singer Nina Simone singing Bob Dylan's Just Like a Woman on a jukey in a bar in Mexico while he enters the territory of Springsteen's Nebraska on The Most Dangerous Woman in America and Darkness Visible.

 

There's a glorious ballad - Santa Ana Wind - where Gretchen Peters plays the part of Emmylou to Tom's Gram Parsons and he touches on the events of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi River Runnin' Backwards before recalling the long-gone days of "ragtime jazz and judgement day coming down here y'all in the land of the razzmatazz." 

 

Recorded - not in his adopted home town of El Paso where he normally puts down his music - but at Tucson' s Wave Lab Studios and backed by Calexico this is probably the most modern sounding piece of work that Russell has done. Working with some of the younger stars of the Americana and alt-folk world has certainly put a spring in his step and in turn he has added another beautifully-produced, sung and played album to his already prodigious catalogue.