News & Features » Miscellany

Tom Russell "The Man From God Knows Where" and Shaver "Electric Shaver"

CD Reviews

Tom Russell, "The Man From God Knows Where"Shaver, "Electric Shaver"(Click on a CD title or cover to order that CD from
Play These Songs"The Man From God Knows Where""Patrick Russell""Mary Clare Malloy"

Real Audio RequiredTom Russell, "The Man From God Knows Where" (Hightone Records) — Any CD pretentiously tagged "an immigrant song cycle" is already off to a dubious start in my book. But with superb writing, singing and an honest heart, folk and country songcrafter Tom Russell has fashioned a stunner.

In "The Man From God Knows Where" Russell tackles the massive project of telling his own immigrant family's story from the days of its arrival on America's shores from Ireland and Norway in the 1800s through the 20th century. The story's 26 songs follow his ancestors as they struggle against prejudice and disease to make a home in their new land. Russell effectively captures the taste of despair left in the mouths of those early settlers.

But there's more here than the self-absorbed story of one guy's clan. Russell uses his family's commonality to paint a vivid musical portrait of America past and present. Russell seeks to reveal the tales held deep in all our souls and he succeeds with surprising grace.

— Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"Thunderbird""Try And Try Again""Leanin' Toward The Blues"

Real Audio RequiredShaver, "Electric Shaver" (New West) — Since his classic "outlaw" country songs of the '70s, rough-and-tumble singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver has always shot from the hip. His recently released "Electric Shaver" thankfully follows suit. Shaver's latest look into the lives of blues-battered, hard-living rounders and rascals brims with the same hard-learned truths and the same joy for life and love that have always made his songs memorable.

Backed by son Eddy's raucous rock guitar, a bass-and-drum rhythm section and the occasional harmonica, the former bull rider and sawmill worker moves stylistically through Texas country sounds, some weary blues moans and even a little Tex-Mex. But regardless of the style, the born-again singer breathes real life into his checkered world of flat-broke road dogs, moonlit nights and hearts afire. It's clear he's not making this stuff up. Of course, he's equally honest when revealing a personal faith and a tender heart. "Electric Shaver" is a delightfully humane experience.

— A.A.

Add a comment