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TOM RUSSELL —PLAY ONE MORE: THE SONGS OF IAN & SYLVIA (True North Records)

 

www.truenorthrecords.com

 

Americana singer-songwriter Tom Russell has made a lot of albums, and among those you can count a number of admirable concept albums. Now he has another to add to the list, as he generously covers an album of songs by famed 1960s folk act Ian & Sylvia (Tyson). Russell even recorded the album in Toronto, Canada!     

 

While I have one or two reservations due to the lack of Tyson classics “Summer Wages”, “Four Strong Winds”, “Someday Soon” and “You Were On My Mind” (Sylvia), but Russell (vocals, acoustic guitar) aided by Cindy Church (harmony vocals) and Grant Siemens (lead acoustic and electric guitar) comes through with a wonderful recording.  

On first hearing I felt the music lacked an edge, but after a listen or two I became hooked. For one Russell keeps it simple, doesn’t try anything spectacular vocally or otherwise. Some of the songs are like old friends to a man well familiar not only with the Tyson’s music but the whole scene and able to drop in the groove at the drop of a hat.

Among the finest tracks I offer you “Thrown To The Wolves”, a song Russell co-wrote with Sylvia Tyson but never recorded him self, but it does figure on her album “Gypsy Cadillac” (co-produced by Russell) and with him excelling there’s “The Renegade”. His sensitive handling of the songs could not be faulted and unlikely to be bettered, and with Church’s harmony vocals and Siemens’ playing most impressive (the former’s slide adds much to a number of tracks).

 

When it comes to standouts I can’t separate or leave out “The Night The Chinese Restaurant Burned Down”, “Short Grass” (Church rises to the occasion with style on called to play a bigger role) and “Sam Bonnifield’s Saloon” (sounds like Grant has found him self a Dobro or National Steel; whichever it is it lends a wonderful feel to the track). All are great story-ballads and you’ll be hard pressed to better or finer versions!

 

By some twist of fate the two songs that bear Russell name as a co-writer, first with Sylvia and then Ian both feature ‘wolves’ in the title. “Thrown To the Wolves” and the more dogged “When The Wolves No Longer Sing” by each act respectively, are worthy inclusions. Likewise goes for the two bonus tracks, two previously unreleased demos from the Tyson’s them selves “Grey Morning” and “The French Girl”; the former from Sylvia is excellent and sounds newer. While the latter has Ian on lead and is an old recording, one very much in keeping with the early 1960s folk era.    

 

Church is an artist I’ve admired for a long time. Her first three solo albums and association with the award winning all-female act, Quartette in the 1990s were memorable times for the former member of Ian Tyson’s band. Sylvia Tyson was and still is a member. In covering songs outside those more famous Russell will undoubtedly have helped enhanced the standing of Ian and Sylvia’s music, and there’s plenty to check on too. Both their duet albums and those that followed; Ian’s western albums on Stony Plain aren’t to be missed.

 

                                                                  Maurice Hope      

 

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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
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22 pts.
Thrum
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HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
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18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
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Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
Independent
 
 
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Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
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Acony Records
 
 
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GC,RW
 
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14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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