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Tom Russell

Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs – 2004 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh

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CDs by Tom Russell

Certainly Tom Russell has to be given plaudits for his continuing the storytelling, troubadour-like tradition of the Western singer-songwriter. Without songwriting credits, most of the songs would sound like they were written by the same hand - so strong is Russell's ability to make material his own. In truth, 5 of the 11 songs are from his pen with the opening "Tonight We Ride" being the best of the lot.

When he dips into other material he takes from only the best. He has two from Bob Dylan, "Seven Curses" and the extraordinary "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts," the later coming with help from Joe Ely and Eliza Gilkyson. He also uses "No Telling" from Linda Thompson and "East Texas Red" by Woody Guthrie. But it is also here that he has his only misstep. His version of Marty Robbins' classic "El Paso" is pedestrian at best and a parody of the original at worst.

Russell takes a rare dip into message songs with his own "The Ballad of Edward Abbey," a song about land development in El Paso. Russell painted the artwork for the cover, an oddly compelling Western composition that provides a perfect lead-in to the music inside.