Tom Russell is a master storyteller and Mesabi, his new release for Shout! Factory , corrals some of the acclaimed singer-songwriter's most compelling tales to date. A thread runs through its songs, a zigzagging but determinedly solid line that connects the perilous bordertown of Juarez, Mexico to the real and faux glitz of L.A. and the bleak iron range of Minnesota-the Mesabi of the album's title. The broad landscapes created by Tom Russell for Mesabi are inhabited by characters we all know-Bob Dylan, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor-and some we may not: the now-obscure, once well-known singer Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, the tragic Disney child star Bobby Driscoll and the character actor Sterling Hayden. It's a logical progression from Russell's last album, 2009's Blood and Candle Smoke, yet it's like no other album Russell has made in his nearly four decades as a recording artist.
His songs have also been recorded by a number of other prominent musicians including Johnny Cash, Guy Clark, Dave Alvin, K.D. Lang, and Suzy Bogguss. Bogguss' rendition of "Outbound Plane" became a Top 10 hit on the country charts. Tom Russell has appeared on the David Letterman TV show five times in the last few years, and his songs have appeared in a dozen movies and television series including: The new Monte Hellman movie The Road To Nowhere, Tremors, Songcatcher and Northern Exposure. Tom Russell makes the music he wants to make, without intervention, and he does so without a care for trends and expectations.