Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tom Russell - Tonight We Ride

Thomas George "Tom" Russell (born March 5, 1953 in Los Angeles) is an American singer-songwriter. Although most strongly identified with the Texas Country music tradition, his music also incorporates elements of folk, Tex-Mex, and the cowboy music of the American West. Many of his songs have been recorded by other artists, including Johnny Cash, k. d. lang, Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Iris Dement, Dave Alvin, and Suzy Bogguss.

In addition to his music, Russell also paints folk art, and has published a book of songwriting quotes (co-edited with Sylvia Tyson), a detective novel (in Scandinavia),and a book of letters with Charles Bukowski (Tough Company; Mystery Island Press).

Russell graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in criminology and taught at schools in Nigeria during the Biafran War. He has also lived in Spain, Norway, and played music at a circus in Puerto Rico. He began his musical career in earnest in the early 1970s in Vancouver playing strip bars, then later relocated to Texas and formed a band with singer-pianist Patricia Hardin. In 1977, they moved to San Francisco, performing regularly in clubs there as Hardin & Russell, during which time they recorded the second of their two studio albums. They eventually split in 1979, at which point Russell drifted out of the music industry for a while.

While working as a taxi driver in Queens, Russell met guitarist Andrew Hardin (no relation to Patricia). After hearing his songs, Hardin convinced him that they should form a new band. Shortly after this, Robert HunterGrateful Dead was a passenger in Russell's cab. Russell sang him his song Gallo Del Cielo. An impressed Hunter invited Russell and Hardin first to join him on stage at New York's Bitter End, and then to become his regular opening act. Hardin remained Russell's full-time sideman until April, 2006. of the

Russell's albums in the 21st century have been heavily influenced by his current home city, El Paso. Albums such as Borderland feature a strong Tex-Mex influence and feature songs of life on both sides of the border.
In 2005 Russell released Hotwalker, the second part of his Americana trilogy (the first part being "The Man From God Knows Where"). It was another conceptual work largely inspired by his correspondence with author Charles Bukowski. Subtitled "A Ballad for Gone America", the album features songs and spoken word pieces, many of the latter delivered by another friend of Bukowski, circus midget Little Jack Horton. The sampled voices of Lenny Bruce and Edward Abbey are also heard on an album which takes the form of a musical collage lamenting the passing of the America of Russell's childhood and the Beat generation.

In addition to working on new music, Russell also exhibits his original artwork and organizes an annual trans-Canadian music train, which combines song-writing and -singing workshops with live concerts aboard a vintage long-distance streamline train. This train trek was depicted in Russell's 2005 concert/documentary, "Hearts on the Line", produced by Canyon Productions, which features a concert with Russell and Andrew Hardin videotaped at Capilano College in Vancouver as well as behind the scenes footage of the music train experience.

In 2006, Russell released Love and Fear, a collection of original songs that were inspired by the highs and lows of his relationships with women. This was followed in 2007 by "Wounded Heart of America", a tribute album of Tom Russell songs covered by other artists, including Joe Ely, Suzy Bogguss, Dave Alvin, Jerry Jeff Walker, and beat poet legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Two new songs, "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall" and "The Death of Jimmy Martin", are also included on the album.

In 2008, Russell's new record company, Shout Factory, released a 2 CD retrospective album "Veteran's Day: Anthology" and Russell and Canyon Productions, Inc. released a DVD featuring Russell and Ian Tyson discussing the art of songwriting called "Mano a Mano." Russell is also working on a documentary film project called California Bloodlines and is currently touring, painting and writing new songs.

On September 15, 2009, Shout! Factory released Russell's new album "Blood and Candle Smoke" featuring twelve original songs. The album was recorded in Tucson, AZ at Wave Lab Studios with members of Calexico providing a world music beat to many of the songs. The album was produced by Tom Russell and Craig Schumacher, who has worked with Neko Case, Iron & Wine and Calexico. Russell will tour extensively through the U.S., Canada and Europe in support of the album for the remainder of 2009.

"Panco Villa crossed the border in the year of ought sixteen
The people of Columbus still hear him riding through their dreams
He killed seventeen civilians you could hear the women scream
Blackjack Pershing on a dancing horse was waiting in the wings

Tonight we ride, tonight we ride

We'll skin ole Pancho Villa, make chaps out of his hide
Shoot his horse, Siete Leguas, and his twenty-seven bride
Tonight we ride, tonight we ride

We rode for three long years till Blackjack Pershing called it quits

When Jackie wasn't lookin' I stole his fine spade bit
It was tied upon his stallion, so I rode away on it
To the wild Chihuahuan desert, so dry you couldn't spit

Tonight we ride, you bastards dare

We'll kill the wild Apache for the bounty on his hair
Then we'll ride into Durango, climb up the whorehouse stairs
Tonight we ride, Tonight we ride

When I'm too damn old to sit a horse, I'll steal the warden's car

Break my ass out of this prison, leave my teeth there in a jar
You don't need no teeth for kissin' gals or smokin' cheap cigars
I'll sleep with one eye open, 'neath God's celestial stars

Tonight we rock, Tonight we roll

We'll rob the Juarez liquor store for the Reposado Gold
And if we drink ourselves to death, ain't that the cowboy way to go?

Tonight we ride, tonight we ride

Tonight we fly, we're headin' west
Toward the mountains and the ocean where the eagle makes his nest
If our bones bleach on the desert, we'll consider we are blessed
Tonight we ride, Tonight we ride

Tonight we ride, tonight we ride."

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