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Tom Russell was born in Los Angels in 1950 and now makes his home on the border of El Paso-Juarez. He graduated from the University of California with a Master's Degree in Criminology, taught school in Nigeria during the Biafran War, and then re located to Vancouver, Canada. He began his music career in the bars of Vancouver's skid row. He has since lived in Austin, San Francisco, New York and, finally, on a badlands farm in the desert of West Texas.
Tom is a master storyteller and Mesabi, his latest release, 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 border town 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 Jimmy 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.
Co-produced by Russell and keyboardist Barry Walsh, and recorded in several different studios in Tucson, Texas, Nashville and Los Angeles, Mesabi is the 26th album from an artist whose songs have been recorded by such icons as Johnny Cash, Dave Van Ronk, Jerry Jeff Walker, Doug Sahm and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, among others. No less than Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the legendary poet, has said that he shares "a great affinity with Tom Russell's songs, for he is writing out of the wounded heart of America."
For Mesabi, Russell invited along several prominent friends to assist him in bringing to fruition his newest compositions, among them Lucinda Williams, Van Dyke Parks, Sir Douglas Quintet keyboardist Augie Meyers and Calexico, the band with which Russell previously collaborated on Blood and Candle Smoke. The result is a collection that may be Russell's most cinematic and global to date, a work that instantly grips the listener and holds on as its vivid scenarios unfold from tune to tune. The consummate renegade, Tom Russell makes the music he wants to make, without intervention, and he does so without a care for trends and expectations.