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Various Artists

Wounded Heart of America (Tom Russell Songs) – 2007 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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This compilation gathers covers of several of Tom Russell's best songs over the years by some of country's elite performers. Amongst the best cuts are the trio that kicks it off - Johnny Cash's moving 1989 rendition of "Veteran's Day" (heretofore out of print and only on a European release), Dave Alvin's haunting take on "Blue Wing" from 1994's "King Of California" and Joe Ely's live 2000 version of "Gallo Del Cielo."

Also featured is Suzy Boggus' hit 1991 recording of "Outbound Plane," the tune co-written with Nancy Griffith that marks Russell's greatest brush with popular success. Other highlights are Griffith and Ian Tyson with "Canadian Whiskey," Jerry Jeff Walker's "Navajo Rug" and Iris Dement's "Acres Of Corn."

While some may have difficulty with Dave Van Ronk's vocal on "The Outcaste" and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's recitation of "Stealing Electricity," on the whole the selections here are solid.

Russell himself can be heard on a quartet of "bonus tracks," including the timely "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall," a commentary on the issue of illegal immigrants, and "The Death Of Jimmy Martin," Russell's salute to the bluegrass legend that slams modern day Nashville ("Don't call me no country singer/ Those are poison words to me/ 'Cause I ain't heard a good country song/ Since 1973"), which was recorded for this CD. Though Russell's versions remain the definitive take on most of these tunes, this collection will appeal to Russell's admirers.