A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch
On the back cover of Russ Bartlett's album, One Hand on the Plow, the late Townes Van Zandt states: "Exceptionally good songs. I wish I had written them." I once thought that Townes gave compliments to any of his guitar-laden drinking buddies after the tenth vodka together, but I am starting to think that he was a very good critic with a perceptive ear for unknown songwriters. He has praised David Olney, Richard Dobson, Rex Foster, The Good Sons, and Cowboy Junkies, and now it is Bartlett.
Bartlett doesn't seem to be very far behind any of these performers, and for his first CD (his previous cassette In Nothing Flat is scheduled to be rereleased), this is a very big compliment. Bartlett's voice is at times remindful of a young John Prine, but more open. There are twelve musicians playing on this album, and my praise goes for the pedal steel guitarist Scott Walls, who makes the best of the four tracks in which he appears. The music is country and folk all the way---the kind of music, if any sense reigned in the country charts, that should be number one all year long. This is Hank Williams for the nineties.
The lyrics concentrate on everyday life, from the market to love songs, and they are often funny, like in Dullsville:
|Attorney at Law |
Dexter B. True
Says if Christ comes back
Hell, we'll sue him too.
And overall, there is a sense of joy in that Bartlett seems to communicate his joy of singing the songs.
To me, this CD has been a great find; this is the first time I have heard Bartlett and I sure would like to meet his music in the future. This is the kind of artist that gives me hope, and a sense that, in the only superpower in the world, there are still people who are motivated not only by money and greed. This is the kind of artist that has made of me a lover of the American culture and a defender of it, in spite of an overall intellectual criticism of All-That-Is-American among the European elites.
Although Bartlett is a Yankee, his music is reminiscent of Guy Clark, Townes, Dobson, Fred Eaglesmith, and many other Texans. One Hand On The Plow is another CD showing the richness of this kind of music. May he rise.
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Edited by David Schultz