Tom Russell

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Tom Russell

“Tom Russell is an original, a brilliant songwriter with a restless curiosity and an almost violent imagination.”
—Annie Prouxl, Pulitzer Prize winning author:
The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain”

In March 2005 Tom Russell released Hotwalker on Hightone Records. This “beat montage” on American culture featured the voices of Jack Kerouac, Lenny Bruce, Dave Van Ronk and others, and served as a Folk Operatic memoir of the music and literary characters which influenced Russell’s childhood. The album has made over a dozen top ten “best-of” lists in Jan 2006. It also served as a musical soundtrack for the published letters between Charles Bukowski and Tom Russell published in Fall 2005. (Tough Company, Mystery Island Press.)
The Associated Press stated: “Hotwalker is a sensory and ideological barrage, yet Russell’s songwriting maintains an uncanny sense of place that advertises him as one of the remaining guardians of a dwindling narrative sensibility . . . this is an ambitious album that ultimately manages to become something quite rare: a work of art.” (Associated Press: 3/7/05)
Uncut remarked: “Hotwalker is a colossal achievement . . . they should seal this in a vault for posterity.” (April 2005)
Stereophile's Robert Baird wrote: “In the lexicon of music business words and phrases, none inspires more eye-rolling and trepidation than ‘important record,’ yet that’s what Russell has made in Hotwalker.”
Tom Russell has recorded one DVD and 20 albums of original material. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Nanci Griffith, Doug Sahm, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely, Ian Tyson. and others. He is credited, along with Dave Alvin, with establishing the Americana radio format with their co-produced tribute to Merle Haggard, Tulare Dust, released on Hightone in 1994. The Columbus Other wrote: “Russell seems to have invented and keeps reinventing the Americana genre.”
Russell’s songs have appeared in a dozen films including Songcatcher and Tremors. He has appeared several times on Late Night with David Letterman.
Tom Russell was born in Los Angels in 1950 and now makes his home on the border of El Paso-Juarez. He graduated from the University of California with a Master’s Degree in Criminology, taught school in Nigeria during the Biafran War, and then relocated to Vancouver, Canada.
He began his music career in the bars of Vancouver’s skid row. He has since lived in Austin, San Francisco, New York, and, currently, on a 2.68 badlands farm in the desert of West Texas.
In 2005, Hightone Records released Hotwalker, as well as the acclaimed DVD Hearts on the Line by Eric Temple, who has directed films for Public Television including “A Voice in the Wilderness,” on Edward Abbey.
Also in 2005, Rounder Records released the compilation Raw Vision: The Tom Russell Band 1984–1994: Vintage Americana.
Tom Russell has published three books: A detective novel; a songwriting compendium of quotes with Sylvia Tyson, And then I Wrote: The Songwriter Speaks, (Arsenal-Pulp Press: Canada); and a book of letters with Charles Bukowski, Tough Company.
Paintings by Tom Russell have been featured in Paste magazine and a major exhibition of his artwork has been mounted at Yard Dog Folk Art Gallery in Austin, Texas.
Hotwalker is the second stage of a three part American Trilogy, which will conclude with a film and CD on the American West as seen though the eyes of a California woman. Filming began in January of 2006.
The first part of this trilology, The Man From God Knows Where, was termed “one of the most important folk records ever recorded” by John Lomax III.
Rolling Stone and UPI journalist John Swenson noted: “Russell is one of America's great songwriters . . . [Man From God] is as close to a Homeric treatment of American history as we’re ever likely to see . . . when somebody is looking for the equivalent to the Harry Smith anthology in the middle of the next century, The Man From God Knows Where is what they’ll discover.”
Russell also co-produces concert trains across Canada and Mexico with promoter Charlie Hunter. Past and current performers include Nanci Griffith, Eliza Gilkyson, Mary Gauthier, and Ramblin’ Jack Eliott. For more information on the “Roots On The Rails” series, visit
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