Local Wire

Tom Russell

Tom Russell is best known as a hip cowboy/country singer-songwriter, and he's always interesting in that capacity. But this new disc is something else entirely -- it's Russell's odd, brilliant introduction and homage to the deviant geniuses who made life interesting in the last two-thirds of the 20th century. There's the late carny midget and cosmic firefly Little Jack Horton, who really kicks things off on the third track and reappears throughout. There's satirist/martyr/saint Lenny Bruce, folk-blues chief cook and bottle-washer Dave Van Ronk, Woody Guthrie, beat clown prince Jack Kerouac, Edward Abbey, Harry Partch, and the poet/lush/shaman Charles Bukowski. Each of these junkies and jazzmen and visionary losers gets a few moments of carnival spotlight time in this rambling collection of tunes, narrative, and actual spoken-word excerpts, all strung together on a rocking mystery train that runs through the hipster tunnel of love, through the heart and soul of America's starry, smoky night.
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Henry Cabot Beck