Review: Tom Russell | Blood and Candle Smoke

Shout! Factory (2009)
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  September 22, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars


This LA-born troubadour with a Dustbowl voice works voodoo on his 24th studio album, conjuring ghosts of the ’60s and ’70s along with apocalyptic visions as he relates tales of gun-toting madmen and dark rifts of the heart. If that sounds bleak, well, many of these songs are, though most of their lost-soul characters — including Russell himself, who appears in the autobiographical “East of Woodstock, West of Viet Nam” and “Nina Simone” — are survivors.

Maybe the CD’s message is that there is no such thing as untroubled times or an untroubled mind. When Russell takes his frequently Tex-Mex flavored arrangements into the past, his tales are tangled in poverty and war. When he tells a story in the present, like the busted loser’s eulogy “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” and the environmental-disaster chronicle “American Rivers,” it comes to a bad end.

But ultimately, his dark visions are overpowered by his colorful writing and pure humanity.

TOM RUSSELL | Club Passim, 47 Palmer St, Cambridge | September 30 at 8 pm | $23-$25 | 617.492.7679 or

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  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Nina Simone,  More more >
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