By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

Tom Russell
"Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs"
HighTone Records

March 18, 2004

Tom Russell returns to the Southwest, his adopted home, for a third volume of cowboy, rodeo, Western and adventure songs, accompanied as always by incomparable guitarist Andrew Hardin.

Russell kicks off the disc with "Tonight We Ride," announcing his intention by invoking Pancho Villa and Black Jack Pershing in the very first verse of an Old West tale so sharp you can feel the dust and grime.The CD's other Russell originals include a pair co-written with poet Paul Zarzyski, "Bucking Horse Moon" and "All This Way for the Short Ride," that come alive with the small details and big heartaches of love and rodeo. "Bucking Horse" is graced by the fiddle of Elana Fremerman of the Austin, Texas, band Hot Club of Cowtown.

"The Ballad of Edward Abbey" is about the environmental activist of "The Monkey Wrench Gang" fame. The song, Russell says on his Web site, "is my answer to the white land developers who are raping El Paso and selling cracker box houses to the Mexicans under false pretense. My first protest s ong, sorta."

Russell's well-chosen covers this time out include songs by Marty Robbins ("El Paso," Russell's hometown), Linda Thompson ("No Telling"), Woody Guthrie ("East Texas Red") and two by Bob Dylan: the relatively obscure "Seven Curses" and the 10-minute epic "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" featuring Joe Ely and Eliza Gilkyson taking parts and verses.

In addition, the CD packaging features Russell's artwork, which he describes as "somewhere between Picasso, Van Gogh, Thornton Dial, Howard Finister and Grandma Moses - if they had all been drinking heavily for weeks."

Drinking is not required to enjoy this collection of acoustic, thoughtful and affecting modern folk music.