Personnel: Tom Russell (vocals, acoustic guitar); Andrew Hardin (guitar, acoustic guitar, gut-string guitar, tiple, percussion); Hank Bones (upright bass, 6-string bass).
Recording information: Bones Tones Studios, Brooklyn, NY (07/1996-12/1996); Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO (07/1996-12/1996).
Photographer: Raymond Mosken.
Arranger: Tom Russell.
One of the differences between filmmakers Ken Burns and Oliver Stone is that there's no one alive who can call Ken Burns a liar. And one of the similarities between Burns and songwriter Tom Russell is that few would even want to. Because, like Burns, Russell populates these (mostly original) Old West tales with such richly described, believable scalawags whose quisling, small-time means and motivations so utterly defy disbelief--we immediately recognize their cheap currency--that the names and details are moot.
Flaunting his wood-smoke and leather voice, Russell delivers the sonic equivalent of four months' Saturday afternoons of cinematic time-traveling on SONG OF THE WEST. Unlike Michael Martin Murphey's loving (and mostly successful) retrievals of cowboy songs, Russell's tales seem propelled from the past. This is not background music, and such songs as "The Sky Above, The Mud Below" deserve to be listened to with the attention one would give a great western film.