Tuesday 29 Jul

TJ Mayes - "When Love Comes Down"

’50s era rock ’n’ roll had been long overdue for a rebirth. Thankfully, the stockpile of capable luminaries has not been in short supply over the past few years. 

07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Boare - "playdatshit"

The world is in the midst of an electronic music renaissance, and you find most of this boon of producers laying claim to the club-friendly, bass-dropping variety, holing up in the the free-flowing world of hip-hop beatmaking or pitching their tent on the out-there, boundary-pushing EDM camp.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broncho - "Class Historian"

Broncho has never been hurting in the hook department. The success of the trio’s 2011 debut, Can’t Get Past the Lips, was predicated mostly on its ability to marry melodies with kinetic guitar riffs and anarchic energy. Yet we’ve heard nothing to the degree of pure pop catchiness on display in “Class Historian,” the new single from Broncho’s upcoming sophomore album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Russell’s brand

Russell’s brand

Tom Russell forces his way out of the constricting Americana box, preferring to let his songs speak for themselves.

Chris Parker March 30th, 2011

Tom Russell
8 p.m. Thursday
The Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley
BlueDoorOKC.com, 524-0738 |
$25 advance, $30 door

Tom Russell has no patience for pigeonholes. Despite a penchant for rootsy story-songs about dust-blown, blue-collar characters, he scoffs at the Americana tag that’s been hung around his neck for years.

“They always need a tag — progressive country, new country, altcountry — to put outsider writing in,” Russell said. “I don’t see my music being strictly Americana. They don’t put that tag on Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. There’s really no type to what I’ve done. I’ve written cowboy songs. I’ve written rock ’n’ roll and country. I’ve written a lot of film music. I don’t want to be put in that bag.”

You might argue the man doth protest too much. But listen to his latest, 2009’s “Blood and Candle Smoke,” and you’ll see his point.

I didn’t have the guts.

—Tom Russell

Recorded with members of Calexico, the distinctive disc blends waltzes, ballads, gospel, mariachi, jazz, Latin beats, the Oshobogo Orphan Choir, Tex-Mex and sun-baked folk. Over the mix, Russell offers his typically poignant literary touch.

“I really wanted to branch out,” he said, noting the whole process was more collaborative than usual. “(Calexico guitarist) Joey Burns is very interactive, can play any instrument imaginable, has suggestions, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted the sound and the grooves to go elsewhere. If you’re a guitar player like I am or play a little piano, you always go in a certain direction. And I wanted it to kind of flip-flop and go in another direction. ... And it gets me out of that bag that they’ll kill you in.”

Russell wanted to be a musician from the first time he saw Bob Dylan, but, he said, “I didn’t have the guts.” Graduating college at 20, he went to Nigeria to teach in 1969, when the country struggled through a bloody tribal war. Instead of doing a lot of teaching, he mostly learned to carve wood and strum a little guitar.

Witnessing all the jealous backbiting and adultery among the faculty, Russell returned to America disillusioned with academia. So he moved to Canada and began playing old Hank Williams tunes at bars and strip clubs along skid row.

Driving a cab in New York in the late 1970s proved fortuitous, because one evening, his fare was Robert Hunter of Grateful Dead. Russell sang him a song, and that kick-started a music career. He’s released at least 15 solo albums ever since, and been lauded as one of his generation’s finest songwriters.

“I was never the kind of guy that said, ‘I want to make it.’ If I had, I would’ve moved to Nashville. But look what happened to Nashville the last 25 years. If you want to sell out, you’re going to stand in a long line,” Russell said. “I’m moving forward on my own out here. You pay a price for that a lot of times, but it’s paying off now. I don’t think you have to be around 40 years for success to happen. It just worked that way with me.”

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