Most performers have the Cliff Richard Syndrome in wanting to appear much younger than they are but this has the makings of an unlikely trend: that is, performers who are reaching advanced years and, in words of Tom Russell, are finding that “old age is everything it’s cracked up to be.” You don’t retire – ask the politician Ming Campbell: ask the jazz singer George Melly, who is almost 80 and still performing. Al Martino toured the UK last year and in June we’ll see Mickey Rooney. No doubt about it: being old is the new cool. Brenda Lee could make a comeback and LeAnn Rimes’ getting worried.
Tom Russell’s last release was an ambitious, concept album, Hotwalker, but this time he is baring his soul as he reveals how he feels as he approaches 60. When he was interviewed for CMP in August 2004, he said, “If you are in a relationship and you love somebody, you would like it to last eternally. That never seems to happen with me, but you learn something new with every relationship.” His new songs, All The Fine Young Ladies, It Goes Away and K.C. Violin came out of that. Now we have those songs and several more in Love And Fear.
Put on the album and straightaway you are in Tom Russell’s world. We find him waking up, doing his sit-ups, and wondering why he takes vitamins when he is filling himself with alcohol and caffeine. The photos of his former girlfriends are on the fridge door are laughing at him. He was once a heavyweight champ but now he is reduced to “Back street affairs in watertank towns.”
Russell writes about looking for a relationship with a 25 year old in Beautiful Trouble and his time with Elena Fremerman, the violinist with Hot Club of Cowtown, is chronicled in K.C.Violin. Both K.C. Violin and All The Fine Young Ladies describe how drinking can ruin a relationship: “Most of them quit drinking, they left it up to me.” In It Goes Away, he recognises how hurt has been resolved with time.