A review of Tom Russell’s CD “Mesabi”

Tom Russell Mesabi CD

When his contemporaries and even some of the younger ones too have run out of fertile juice, Tom Russell keeps plucking from his desires, dreams and especially his memories.

His latest–“Mesabi”–is among his most creative ventures, bringing back to life artists and performers from multiple entertainment realms, their unsanitized human shortcomings and the feelings everyday folk attach to their stars.

In this release, the spectrum covers the resonance of Bob Dylan’s birthplace, reality’s demons despoiling actors Sterling Hayden and Bobby Driscoll, the improbable life of Ukelele Ike, Elizabeth Taylor’s serial quests for fulfillment, riffing off James Dean’s no-mans-land death and, very broadly, the fantasy world depicted in films plus what viewers add to such make-believe. Call it the human fascination with other worldliness, a respite from the down and dirty of reality.

Russell’s latest home territory, El Paso, but more so the accompanying Juarez, now separated by a river of hope and tears, is also tragically displayed.

In “And God Created Bordertowns,” Russell sings:

“…Our guns go ‘cross the Rio Grande
Two thousand pieces everyday
And the coke and weed and methamphetamine
Come sliding back the other way…

In “Goodnight Juarez,” he captures the nihilism present today:

“…Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows just
caught the last bus out
She said: “Seven sorrows used to fit the bill
but I’d need 10,000 now…”

But there is departure from the sins and sadness too, such as that depicted in “Love Abides,” a plying of eventual optimism plus the destruction of fear and a heading inside to one’s sanctuary core in “Heart Within A Heart.”

There is no one else offering this kind of material and with such a display. Russell presents an entertaining mix of past and present in displaying vignettes of our mostly human tragedy.

The Playlist

  • Mesabi
  • When The Legends Die
  • Farewell Never Neverland
  • The Lonesome Death of Ukelele Ike
  • Sterling Hayden
  • Furious Love (For Liz)
  • A Land Called “Way Out There”
  • Roll The Credits, Johnny
  • Heart Within A Heart
  • And God Created Bordertowns
  • Goodnight, Juarez
  • Jai Alai
  • Love Abides
  • A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
  • The Road To Nowhere