Review and Live Photos by Chaz Brooks
Playing in Farncombe for a record ninth time American folk legend and master storyteller Tom Russell served up a country treat for a packed audience.
With the self confidence of an artist who has 35 albums to his name Russell and co-guitarist Max De Bernardi were in town promoting Russell’s latest work Folk Hotel.
He began with the beautiful Up In The Old Hotel. It’s all about the storytelling with Russell, you almost think you are there in New Mexico with him. He continued with He Wasn’t a Bad Kid When He Was Sober and Guadalupe, both from his epic 52-track recording The Rose of Roscrae. Then two tracks from the new album; The Last Time I Saw Hank and, perhaps the standout track of the night, Rise Again, Handsome Johnny about the assassination of Kennedy. He finished his first set with the rowdy cowboy song Tonight We Ride.
After a brief interval Russell returned to play more from Folk Hotel, notably the Dylan Thomas-inspired Sparrow of Swansea, which featured beautiful guitar interplay between Russell and De Bernardi, and I’ll Never Leave Those Old Horses, a track written about his musical hero Ian Tyson.
He was ahead of his time ten years ago when he wrote Who’s Going To Build Your Wall, in a pre-Trump era which turned into a raucous singalong. In the song Russell points out that Mexican immigrants are doing much of the work that enables Americans to live an affluent lifestyle by doing the gardening and cooking.
As an encore he performed Navajo Rug, the song he co-wrote with Ian Tyson. Playing two hour-long sets Russell certainly gives value for money for his shows. We had the stetson, necktie and boots, all we were missing was his horse.