Not the first review of Tom Russell on the site and hopefully not the last. There have been times over the years when Tom must have been a casting director’s first choice for a dwarf in ‘Snow White, The Musical’, (the one whose name begins with a ‘G’), but he is comparatively Ken Dodd-like nowadays.
As usual, he has a new record (his 36th?) to plug ( ‘Folk Hotel’), and we get plenty of tracks from it. Many references to other songwriters/poets, viz. Ian Tyson, Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas, Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams… Plus an ode to JFK*. Mr R always gives us an insight into each set of lyrics and there have never been any Moon, June , Spoon – type songs. I must add that there has been a number of observations about ‘The Sparrow of Swansea’ having a chord structure not unadjacent to a very popular Ralph McTell song though!
As well as the very good new songs, there are plenty of older singalongs for his public to get stuck into. ‘Tonight We Ride’, ‘Blue Wing’, ‘Stealing Electricity’, ‘St Olav’s Gate’ , ‘Veterans’ Day’ and ‘East of Woodstock…’ have all aged well. And ‘Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall’ has taken on a whole new relevance. A bit of Johnny Cash in the encore was a reminder of how the late JC was a fan too.
A raconteur par excellence, he was on the main stage today, a much better place to be in than last time in the smaller room (the latter was akin to a bijou cinema). His songwriting never falls below great and it makes it difficult to recommend a start point for any Russell virgins out there.
Invest in a ticket for a date on his UK tour and join those of us ‘in the know’.
*His intro to his song about JFK is interesting. It revolves around playing (American) football the day of the assassination. Mr R’s age is difficult to pin down. March 5 seems agreed but year of birth is down as 1947, 1949 or 1953, depending on which of three websites you look at. So at least two examples of ‘Fake News’ but which is correct? Answers to Mrs. Jessica Fletcher please.