Category Archives: Interviews

Tom Russell: American Primitive Man

Tom Russell's new album Blood And Candle Smoke (2009, Shout! Factory)

Russell pours heart and soul into 2009′s Blood And Candle Smoke.

Striding up from the back room in McGonigel’s Mucky Duck Pub – Houston, Texas, USA – is a tall, serene-looking man in cowboy boots and a black fedora. On the little stage in the bright red room, he shoulders his instrument and eyes the eager faces before him. “Well,” he muses, “we got the dinner crowd out of here. Who’s ready to hear some music?” Clearly, competing with a plate of fish and chips is not Tom Russell’s style. And once he begins playing, nobody would mistake his soul-deep strains for background music. Accompanied by veteran guitar picker Thad Beckman, Russell gives a truly memorable performance.

The history of Tom Russell, American troubadour, goes back a bit. His catalogue of recorded music dates to the late 1970s. Before that, he plied his musical trade during a stint in Nigeria, where he taught criminology, and later in the “Skid Row bars of Vancouver,” beginning in 1971. Much of this information is available on Russell’s website, but he also put a good deal of it into song on his 2009 album, Blood And Candle Smoke.


“I think the more you dig into the well, and the longer you write, you come back around to yourself.”


By Russell’s own admission, there is more of the artist’s “real life” on this new album. Songs like “East Of Woodstock, West Of Vietnam” and “Criminology” have the ring of autobiography to them, and he confirms that he dug deeper into his personal history to write them. Of “Finding You,” which he calls a “simple direct love song” written for his wife, he remarks, “I couldn’t have written this 20 years ago.” Continue reading