Album: Tom Russell

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The Independent Culture

Subtitled Charles Bukowski and a Ballad for Gone America, this is singer-songwriter Tom Russell's elegy for the bohemian culture of late Fifties and early Sixties California, and the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles in which he first befriended Bukowski. Originally planned as a book of their correspondence, it metamorphosed into an album in which spoken recollections of the likes of Bukowski, Woody Guthrie and Dave Van Ronk are punctuated by the era's various native musical forms - white gospel hymns, folk ballads, Bakersfield country swing, Mexican norteño, "honky jazz" and fairground calliope - and the likes of Bukowski, Kerouac, Edward Abbey, Lenny Bruce and Harry Partch reading their own work. The result throws up unexpected juxtapositions at every turn - as, for instance, in "Border Lights", where Russell's recollections of trips to Tijuana in the '50s are underscored by mariachi music and an acoustic guitar version of the great MexiCali crossover pop hit "96 Tears". It presents a vi

Subtitled Charles Bukowski and a Ballad for Gone America, this is singer-songwriter Tom Russell's elegy for the bohemian culture of late Fifties and early Sixties California, and the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles in which he first befriended Bukowski. Originally planned as a book of their correspondence, it metamorphosed into an album in which spoken recollections of the likes of Bukowski, Woody Guthrie and Dave Van Ronk are punctuated by the era's various native musical forms - white gospel hymns, folk ballads, Bakersfield country swing, Mexican norteño, "honky jazz" and fairground calliope - and the likes of Bukowski, Kerouac, Edward Abbey, Lenny Bruce and Harry Partch reading their own work. The result throws up unexpected juxtapositions at every turn - as, for instance, in "Border Lights", where Russell's recollections of trips to Tijuana in the '50s are underscored by mariachi music and an acoustic guitar version of the great MexiCali crossover pop hit "96 Tears". It presents a vivid, multi- hued portrait of a free-thinking cultural spirit that has all but died out under the smothering onslaught of homogenous "youth culture", nowhere more engagingly than in the reminiscences of Little Jack Horton, the circus midget who was Bukowski's fellow hellraiser.

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