Frankly, I find it very hard not to lavish praise on the work of Tom Russell. This artist has been releasing what seem to me to be masterworks of Americana every two or three years going back over the last two decades. It has come to seem as though he can be counted upon to produce one great CD after another. You can hardly find many track records that can match his The Man From God Knows Where (1999), The Rose Of San Joaquin (1995), or Songs Of The West (1997).
Indeed, even when he does not release a CD that can top any Top 10 list of the best Americana CD's ever, even then his albums are just great.
Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs has to go into the first category of masterpieces by Tom Russell. This is not only one of his best records but it is one of the best cowboy discs ever cut , and the only artist who can match this CD is Ian Tyson. Russell is a great rocker like Bruce Springsteen, a great rock balladeer that ranges along Joe Cocker or Jimmy Lafave, a great singer-songwriter, and a great folkie, but when it comes to cowboy music territory, he is the top of the top. Russell excels in this field, surpassing anything that has been done before, and creates a mythology of the old west, of cowboys and outlaws that is at the heart of the American narrative.
In Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs Russell mixes songs he wrote alone with new and older collaborations with Paul Zarsyski, and songs written by Bob Dylan, Peter Lafarge (who wrote The Ballad of Ira Hayes), Woody Guthrie (East Texas Red) and Linda Thompson (No Telling). All these songs merge into a unique Russell sound, with his potent masculine voice, mostly alone but also in two great duets featuring Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Ely. These are two of the finest singers in the field. Just listen to what he does to Dylan's song from Blood On The Tracks, Lily, Rosemary and the Jack Of Hearts and you'll probably be won over. He breathes new life into this long-winded song. Russell takes these songs all the way from New York's Greenwich Village to the plains and the desert of El Paso.
I miss here the lyrics, which at least could be made available on Tom Russell's or Hightone's web site. Actually the CD comes without any booklet or liner notes in a digipack. The music is mainly acoustic in this CD, mostly it is Tom Russell with his guitar and one or two more musicians singing with him or playing some accordion. I didn't get the idea of starting the whole CD with the music of a corrida. So, welcome to the world of Pancho Villa, cowboys, outlaws, horses with souls, deserts, and welcome to Russell's rough and tumble past from the safety of your own home's rocking chair!
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