I had hoped to attend, but when I realized I couldn’t get to Tom Russell’s show in Kansas City I contacted my friend on the spot, honorary Magdalenian Jennifer Wilding, and inquired whether she would be interested in “covering” it for Q- blog. She was, and took her friend Rick Malsick. Turned out Tom was new to them, but it didn’t hurt their appreciation (or understanding) a bit. Rick:
“I wasn’t familiar with Tom Russell. Come to find out he wrote Outbound Plane, a damn fine Nancy Griffith song. But I didn’t know that going in. Anyway, impressions. Wish I’d been taking notes. First, there was the sign at Knuckleheads imploring patrons to muzzle their cell phones and to keep quiet during the performance. Singer-songwriters have to love that. Then there was the music. The collaboration with Thad Beckman was very tight. I have to believe these two have spent some time together. The guitars were always is sync, even when the rhythms were tricky, and the vocals were always in harmony. But the most powerful impression was the songwriting. These are songs for smart people, with the right blend of sincerity and irony, pathos and humor.
“Moreover, his songs take an inductive approach, telling stories of individuals – the aging fighter, the guy stealing electricity, the dude who loses everything in a cockfight – in such a way that even those at great cultural remove can feel the pain. Finally, there was the audience. Many were longtime fans and Tom’s rapport with them was as funny as it was loving. It’s good to know that there’s a fan base in KC for this kind of first-class music.”
“For me, Tom Russell made the evening all about appreciation. His appreciation for his friend, the [Kansas- born–SB] writer George Kimball, who was in the audience, for the Knuckleheads staff, for his most excellent musical collaborator and for his audience. In return, Russell got a whole lot of appreciation back. My favorite moments were the two times he launched into songs, being absolutely certain that the audience was going to chime in for the sing-along moments. It was like he had leapt into the audience, counting on them to pass him overhead from person to person, but he never left the stage.”