Tom Russell -- October in the Railroad Earth

Tom Russell does not get the credit he deserves. One of the true pioneers of Americana, Russell can flat out write, and his latest album, October in the Railroad Earth, carries an emotional punch that most songwriters can only aspire to deliver.

Released on March 15th, 2019, October in the Railroad Earth opens with a nod to Jack Kerouac in the title track. From there, the album takes you on a 45 minute journey that never jumps the rails.

Tom Russell's gravel voice sounds more like Johnny Cash than it once did, but how much of that is time, and how much intentional for this album is hard to tell with a master like Russell.

The genius of Russell's songwriting shines in Small Engine Repair as he turns what could be the mundane, into a truly emotional look at life.

My personal favorite track off the album is T-Bone Steak and Spanish Wine. Time of course marches on for us all, but who among us doesn’t long to hit that rewind button now and again?

Both Isadore Gonzales and Red Oaks Texas offer looks at Russell’s brand of humanized storytelling, and Backstreets of Love is a sad refrain of a relationship gone stale.

I'm going back to Texas, where there is brisket  ...

The opening line to Hand-Raised Wolverines speaks to me personally, because I do miss a good Texas slow-smoked brisket as you can't find such an animal here in California, but the poignancy of this track goes far beyond that wily critter we call nostalgia.

Russell was born in Los Angeles so he has California roots to go along with his Texas sensibilities. His ode to the death of Merle Haggard, Highway 46, captures the essence of the Bakersfield sound while holding true to Russell’s own music and the pure Americana that defines him.

Pass Me the Gun, Billy is my second favorite track, but saying that makes me feel kind of dirty because picking favorites to such a great album is on par with picking favorites among your children. However, this chorus stuck to me and I caught myself humming it all day. I felt this story as if I were there living it.

Every road weary musician can relate to When The Road Gets Rough and speaking of rough travels the album ends with a cover of Cash's Wreck of the Old 97. The track will make you miss Johnny Cash all the more and leave you feeling like Russell might just be the closest thing we have to a true Americana master.


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