Yeah there's plenty of primo talent here, but it's nice to get out and see how the rest of 'em get down from time to time. So-Cal roots-rock troubadour Tom Russell's only area appearance was at Castaways in Ithaca last Friday. And I've always loved his Southwest-Mexacali-big-sky-screw-Nashville music. Musically Russell can bring you to tears; lyrically he can drown you in 'em.
His new album Hotwalkeris simply amazing. I've been spinning it nonstop. With recorded commentary from Charles Bukowski, Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac, and Little Jack Horton mixed with Russell's own beat ramblings and lonely guitar, Hotwalkerplays out more like a scrapbook. A ghostly tribute to a forgotten cool with Russell as much Chandler as Rogers. I had to go see this brilliant noir cowboy laureate.
So D&C music scribe Jeff Spevak and I braved the cold and the boring drive to Ithaca for the show.
Russell was halfway through his first set when we arrived. Accompanied by the fleet-fingered, flat-picking Andrew Hardin, Russell and his own black guitar held the modest audience in rapt attention. Because he picks almost constantly --- even between songs --- the songs and stories blur into a beautiful continuum. It's one big story told from a seasoned hipster cowboy's perch. Songs of love, loneliness, heroes, losers, and icons cascaded from the stage. Despite the stripped-down delivery, Tom Russell was powerful, mesmerizing, and unforgettable.
Saw The Sadies for the umpteenth time at The Bug Jar on Saturday. It's safe to say they've outgrown the joint, as it was sardine city by the time they took the stage. Still riding my Russell buzz, I was more than just a little in the mood for the band's country-psychedelia. A definite high spot (pun intended if it makes you laugh) was when they covered "Cocaine Blues."
--- Frank De Blase