What does it sound like?:
I have to declare my bias here before proceeding with my review. I consider Tom Russell to be currently the greatest living songwriter in the genre we describe as Americana. In short he has no equal. This is the third in a trilogy chronicling the West that started with The Man from God knows where and continued with Hotwalker. It is his magnum opus, his raison d’être for the last few years and is an absolute joy from start to finish. It should be listened to in one sitting but at 2 discs long and with around 140 minutes of music it may not be possible to devote that much time in one go. Bitesize chunks do not detract from the enjoyment and it is clear that this is a labour of love that he must surely be proud of. How can anyone be this good? It tells the story of an Irish immigrant who left the shores of the Emerald Eyes as a young boy. The narrator is 90 years old and looking back on his life. A life of Cowboy hustlers, barroom brawls, gamblers, roustabouts and ne’er do wells. The whole set is interspersed with spoken commentary, traditional Irish songs such as Carrickfergus and the Fields of Athenry plus traditional cowboy songs such as The Streets of Laredo. However it is Tom’s songs that soar and guests are a veritable who’s who of Americana. Includes appearances by Gretchen Peters, Barry Walsh, Eliza Gilkyson, Johnny Cash, Huddie Ledbetter, Ian Tyson, Fats Kaplin, Jimmie Dale Gilmour and countless others. Tom has crafted this with a love for the land of his origins and a longing for people to immerse themselves in the ways of the West. It is a disappearing time in a disappearing place and he wants it enshrined. The Smithsonian should ensure this work is preserved for future generations to enjoy. However it is not a museum piece it is a living, breathing thing of great beauty.
What does it all *mean*?
The Blues was an historical part of the American past. This music is as important and should be revered by all.
Goes well with…
any situation – there are moments to suit all moods. The whole album is a broad canvas and I don’t think there will be any work this year that matches it in terms of craft and ambition.
Might suit people who like…
Everyone that has a remote interest in American music will be overawed by this. Just stunning.