Caught by the River

Listening Pleasures of…….September

9th October 2009

Rough Trade shop’s Will Burns chooses, ‘Blood and Candle Smoke’ by Tom Russell;


I have been listening to Tom Russell for years (although my father’s gradual whittling away of any peripheral listening material other than every Tom Russell album and a couple of Steve Earle albums, and a daily shared car journey might have something to do with that), and when asked if there was any music from the last couple of months that I was particularly taken with, I immediately thought of Tom’s latest effort. I have always appreciated his wonderful, literate songs, but where previously my favourite renderings of his songs were often cover versions by the various artists who worship and re-interpret them, his latest album is the record that I just can’t imagine hearing made any better, somehow the songs are so distinctly his that I just can’t hear them in another voice.
There are songs here about Africa, Mexico (of course!), youth, old age, death (the holy trinity of mortality), and they are all, I guess, about America as well. Calexico provide the backing band, and they drape their usual exquisite backdrop of unplaceable music behind Tom’s words. Words and music that seem redolent of everything and everywhere at the same time, not bound by geographic or emotional specificity; but rather a weird, epic kind of American-folk-world music.

(You can get this record from the RT shop. JB)

further reading.