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Tom Russell

Borderland – 2001 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Tom Russell

While Tom Russell's previous CD "The Man From God Knows Where" took the listener on a musical journey into the past as he sought to connect with his Irishroots, his latest focuses on Russell's new life as he becomes settled in El Paso.

Though Russell is at times nostalgic, he avoids being overly sentimental. In "Where the Dream Begins" Russell reflects on an old photo of himself in a baseball cap and the dreams he had in his youth, only to realize that his dreams can be found in his children. "California Snow" (which first appeared on co-writer Dave Alvin's 1998 'Blackjack David') is the dark tale of a border patrolman who has seen too many Mexican immigrants die in the mountains, and "When Sinatra Played Juarez" suggests that the area once enjoyed a more glamorous image.

While "Let It Go" shares the Tex-Mex feel of the rest of the album, it is not strictly a borderland tale as it deals universally with the difficulty of forgetting a lost love. Producer Gurf Morlix (slide guitar and bass) leads the superb cast of players including Andrew Hardin (guitar), Ian McLagen (organ), Joel Guzman (accordion) and background singers Eliza Gilkyson and Jimmy LaFave.

Russell deals brilliantly not only with life on the border between two cultures, but also with the chasm between the sexes.