Saturday, June 2, 2018

Tom Russell – Old Songs Yet to Sing

Old Songs Yet to Sing
Frontera Records

Old Songs Yet to Sing is a reunion album. A reunion of singer-songwriter Tom Russell, virtuoso guitarist Andrew Hardin – and 20 of the songs they used to play together.

Tom and Andy were an extraordinary team for about 25 or 26 years. They started playing together, circa 1980, and were at the heart of The Tom Russell Band for some years and an acoustic duo for many more. Their musical integration – on stage and on recordings – was remarkable.

Tom is one of the most prolific songwriters I know – I’ve referred to him more than once as “the best songwriter of my generation” – with an output of many great songs and brilliantly conceived albums. Last year he released two great albums, a tribute album, Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia, and Folk Hotel, two of my favorite records of 2017. He’s also never been shy about revisiting older material – those “old songs yet to sing” – in new ways that makes them seem fresh and new again.

Well after a decade of not touring or recording together, Tom and Andy reunited at Congress House Studio in Austin, Texas for two days in February to record new versions of 20 songs they used to play back in the day – songs Tom wrote or co-wrote between 1974 and 2004.

It’s just the two of them on the record – Tom on lead vocals and guitar and Andy on lead guitar and harmony vocals – and they make these songs, no matter how familiar they may be, sound fresh.

Tom Russell, Mike Regenstreif & Andrew Hardin (2005)
Highlights? How about every song? Of course there’s “Gallo Del Cielo,” Tom’s epic border ballad about a fighting rooster (the song is fictional – no real roosters were harmed in its creation); “Angel of Lyon,” co-written by Steve Young, the story of a businessman who finds salvation in Europe, a compelling song that was and remains a showcase for Andy’s virtuosity; the irresistible “Navajo Rug,” co-written with Ian Tyson; and the sad and beautiful story-song, “Blue Wing,” about an Indigenous ex-con who shared a prison cell with the real-life R&B singer and convicted killer Little Willie John (a line from “Blue Wing” gives the album its title); and, of course, 16 more.

Tom told me he thought he was singing these “old songs” better now than when they were new. With all due respect to all the great Tom Russell albums with the original versions, I’m not going to argue.

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--Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday Morning with Mike Regenstreif – CKCU – Saturday May 26, 2018

Saturday Morning is an eclectic roots-oriented program on CKCU in Ottawa heard live on Saturday mornings from 7 until 10 am (Eastern time) and then available for on-demand streaming. I am one of the four rotating hosts of Saturday Morning and base my programming on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches format I developed at CKUT in Montreal.

CKCU can be heard at 93.1 FM in Ottawa and on the web.

This episode of Saturday Morning can be streamed on-demand at

Extended features – The 10-Day Album Cover Challenge; Songs of Townes Van Zandt (1944-2007).

The Wailin' Jennys- The Light of a Clear Blue Morning
Fifteen (True North)
Reggie Harris- Ready to Go
Ready to Go (Reggie Harris Music)

Tom Russell- Blue Wing
Andrew & Casey Calhoun- Gun-Metal Eyes
Skeins (Waterbug)

Chuck Brodsky- Warsaw in May
Them and Us (Chuck Brodsky)
David Francey- Poorer Then
The Broken Heart of Everything (Laker)

Leonard Cohen- Suzanne
Songs of Leonard Cohen (Columbia/Legacy)
Joni Mitchell- Both Sides Now
Clouds (Reprise)
Bob Dylan- All Along the Watchtower
John Wesley Harding (Columbia/Legacy)
The Band- Stage Fright
Stage Fright (Capitol)
Jesse Winchester- The Brand New Tennessee Waltz
Jesse Winchester (Stony Plain)

Mississippi John Hurt- Richland Woman Blues
The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard)
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee- Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses
In London (Marble Arch)

Tom Paxton- Morning Again
Morning Again (Elektra)
Paul Siebel- Bride 1945
Woodsmoke and Oranges (Elektra)
Judy Collins- Someday Soon
Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Elektra)

Songs of Townes Van Zandt (1944-2007)
Kimmie Rhodes- If I Needed You
Walls Fall Down (Sunbird)
Steve Earle- (Quicksilver Dreams of) Maria
Townes: The Basics (New West)
Kate & Edith- Rex’s Blues
Live at Kelso Hall (Kate & Edith)
Townes Van Zandt- Tower Song
Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (Tomato)

Rosalie Sorrels- Snowing On Raton
Borderline Heart (Green Linnet)
Jimmie Dale Gilmore- No Lonesome Tune
One Endless Night (Rounder)
The Be Good Tanyas- Waiting Around to Die
Chinatown (Nettwerk)
Townes Van Zandt- No Place to Fall
Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (Tomato)

Colleen Rennison- White Freightliner
See the Sky About to Rain (Black Hen)
Jerry Jeff Walker- I’ll Be Here in the Morning
Viva Luckenbach (Ryko)
Nanci Griffith & Arlo Guthrie- Tecumseh Valley
Other Voices/Other Rooms (Elektra)
Townes Van Zandt- Kathleen
Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (Tomato)

The Wainwright Sisters- Our Mother the Mountain
Songs in the Dark (MapleMusic)
Guy Clark- To Live is to Fly
Old Friends (Sugar Hill)
Emmylou Harris- Pancho & Lefty
Luxury Liner (Warner Bros./Rhino)
Townes Van Zandt- For the Sake of the Song
Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (Tomato)

Bettye LaVette- Mama, You Been On My Mind
Things Have Changed (Verve)
The LYNNeS- Blame It on the Devil
Heartbreak Song for the Radio (The LYNNeS)
Laurie MacAllister- Unfamiliar Moon
The Lies the Poets Tell (Laurie MacAllister)
Vance Gilbert- Boy on a Train
Old White Men (Disismye Music)

Annie Lou- Delilah
End Zone (Annie Lou Music)
El Coyote- Only Temporary
El Coyote (El Coyote)
John Gorka- The Ballad of Iris & Pearl
True in Time (Red House)
Pharis & Jason Romero- Salt & Powder
Sweet Old Religion (Lula)
Peter Rowan- Drumbeats on the Watchtower
Carter Stanley’s Eyes (Rebel)

Ken Perlman- Londonderry Hornpipe/Jenny Dang the Weaver/Sleepy Maggie
Frails & Frolics: Fiddle Tunes from Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, and elsewhere on Clawhammer Banjo (Redbud)

I’ll be hosting Saturday Morning next on June 23.

Find me on Twitter. @MikeRegenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif