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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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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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