Good singer/songwriters understand which emotional buttons to push in order to please audiences. Great singer/songwriters, however, coax listeners deep into another world, a place where fiction mirrors real life. Tom Russell, a lyrical master with a storytelling gift rivaling literary giants long dead, fits rather comfortably into the latter group.
On Indians, Cowboys, Horses, Dogs, Russell sketches out characters and settings rich enough to warrant novel-length treatment. Decades of blood, sweat and drink have soaked through the floorboards of Russell’s mind, irrigating tracks like “Tonight We Ride” and “All This Way For The Short Ride.” Even tunes not belonging to Russell’s pen—Dylan’s “Seven Curses” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso”—are carefully sanded down and refinished; old relics covered with fresh paint.