As Russell lives in Mexico, he also chronicles life there. He describes how poor people are killed, climbing the pylons trying to get free electricity. “Hey, baby, ain’t that like you and me, Love is like stealing electricity.” This song has a compelling lyric with several quotable images. In Stolen Children, he reflects on pictures of missing children and how the common marriage may have more cruelty than bullfighting. The Pugilist at 59 contains a reference to “one old Father’s Day card” and in this song, “My youngest kid don’t speak to me, I’ve known a few disgraces, Send me no more photographs of stolen children’s faces.”
I love The Sound Of One Heart Breaking, which Tom Russell wrote with Sylvia Tyson and sings with Gretchen Peters. They sound like John Stewart and Buffy Ford at their best. Gretchen Peters shares the vocals for his incisive comments on Catholicism in Ash Wednesday, including an unexpected pun: “They got holes in their pockets, Holes in their minds, They are holy people in an unholy time, Ash Wednesday.” When Russell hears about alligators having four chambered hearts, he’s away and another song is nailed.
The musicians include the usual suspects (Andrew Hardin, Fats Kaplin), but Love And Fear has a fuller sound than most of his work, and you should play the album loud. The lyrics may be heavy going but they are counterbalanced by some of Russell’s best melodies, and the album is, quite simply, brilliant. Of course, Russell’s lifestyle is so bizarre and self-absorbed that his conclusions can only apply to himself but we learn that the virtues of being honest and not showing yourself in a good light.
In All The Fine Young Ladies, Russell looks into himself and writes, “Compromise was not one of my rules.” He accepts this weakness and now he can be “a man who could satisfy a lady in her prime, If I could hold a fine young lady one more time.” Not, you note, a woman of his own age! The pugilist is coming back, but talking of compromise, I don’t think the next girlfriend is going to be happy with those photos on the fridge.