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Tom Russell

The Rose of San Joaquin – 1996 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Jana Pendragon

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CDs by Tom Russell

Tom Russell has built a career upon integrity and good story telling in many genres. But most clearly he has found a home in the country and roots music on the Americana charts. A songwriter and a storyteller of substance, Russell is a producer's dream come true. His most recent offering, produced by Dave Alvin and Greg Liesz, is reflective of that. Comprised of finger snapping, Tex-Mex tunes and darker tales of loss and alienation, Russell continues to deliver a train load of great music. Outstanding cuts include the title tune and "Heart Aches are . . Come Sundown. " Both possess a striking upbeat attitude as does the almost moody "What Do You Want. " Also good is "Rocking Out in California" with explicit lyrics and sensual analogy. Another startling moment occurs when Russell covers a Chris Gaffney-penned tune. "The Garden" is bold in its representation of the below middle class standard of living so many endure. Here, Russell paid tribute to those who rose above the hopelessness and the drugs poverty fosters. All in all, Russell added another gem to his musical treasure trove.