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Tom Russell

Love & Fear – 2006 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Tom Russell

Tom Russell's latest is a poignant examination of lost love, advancing age and isolation.

The album's opening and closing tracks are perfect bookends to this somber collection. "The Pugilist At 59" kicks it off with the singer rolling out of bed to confront a mundane, sterile existence. With the jazzy "Old Hearts," we find the singer still finding it difficult to get out of bed, but he manages a trace of optimism with the acknowledgement that "you've survived worse than this."

In between, Russell addresses failed attempts at love. With "The Sound Of One Breaking Heart" Russell observes that "a wounded heart's like a broken bell/ Keep's on beatin' anyone can tell it's not the same/The voice is changed." In "K.C. Violin," Russell appears to be moving past a broken relationship ("I thought of you this morning/ But I learned to let it go").

The bluesy "Four Chambered Heart" conveys the pain inflicted upon children ("We break and train our children just like animals/ We fill 'em with parasites and poisoned dreams of fear"), as does "Stolen Children" ("faces on milk cartons rolling round in shopping carts).

The most optimistic track is "It Goes Away" which promises that even though "it might take years/ Or a hundred thousand tears," the pain will fade with time.

Produced by Russell with Gurf Morlix and Mark Hallman, this is a solid effort from one of the best singer/songwriters around.