Tuesday 29 September 2015

Outsiders: Review by Laurie Cusack of “Hotwalker” by Tom Russell


Sizzle your ears within the grooves of Hotwalker and you will be royally rewarded. If you have not come across Tex-Mex troubadour Tom Russell before, this is the place to start. Epitomising the underground vibe, Russell, operates on the fringe, he drops deep grooves, man! Hotwalker is littered with literary-magma, baby. It’s beatnik heaven. Street gems abound. Russell turns us on to influence after influence: Rambling Jack Eliot, Lennie Bruce, Jack Kerouac, etc. A storytelling maestro is Tom Russell who invokes hobo-magic, compadres  ̶  tapping into a lost America. His concept mines spoken word from a bygone age.  Americanana-schtick is conjured, selected and crafted by Russell for our indulgence. The “twang” is hair raising, evocative and thought provoking. He gives us a veritable musical history lesson inside his bold sound-picture.

The rough-neck raconteur approach he incorporates, works, which is accompanied by country power-chords that mesmerise time after time. This concept sucks you in. His sound is sweetly infectious. Ear-candy – I dare to suggest. Hotwalker acts as Russell’s homage to a disappeared “beatnik” America: “A Ballad for Gone America” may well have been its working title. And what Hotwalker really zings with is loss, creative loss.

Freak performer and poet Little Jack Horton’s reminiscences on Charles Bukowski and himself getting drunk together and stealing a train is one priceless anecdote. An array of whacky intros and gravelly commentary by Russell are delivered from the gut; they are insightful and truly reel the listener in. But his beautiful peon of a ballad about David Van Ronk concerning his influence upon the budding Greenwich Village folk scene in New York is a standout masterpiece. It rips the tears out of you because of its naked vibe. I wonder if this song helped inspire the Cohen brothers film Inside the Mind of Llewyn Davis. Another standout moment on the album is Edward Abbey’s “Benediction,” which captures Abbey’s playful anarchic tones masterfully. Bakersfield and the west coast Oakie sound in the Hoover camps are also explored with honesty and bravado: the other side of the tracks, dude. The American outsider is musically explored with compassion and insight throughout Hotwalker. If there is a flaw within Russell’s superlative concept – it leaves you gasping for more!
                                                 Long live OUTSIDERS.
                                                                                           Twang-on, Tom.

About the reviewer
Laurie Cusack is currently writing short stories for a PhD in Creative Writing at DeMontfort University, exploring the Irish Diaspora and issues surrounding it. He has been published online and has had stage plays and radio plays performed.

1 comment:

  1. Well...after reading this, Laurie, I think I'll just have to go out and buy it. Energetic, punchy review. Gus