Though still in his 20s, Luther Russell has already packed nearly a lifetime into his career in music. He absorbed a lot playing in bands in Los Angeles since early adolescence, signing with American Recordings and releasing a record with his former band the Freewheelers. When all that didn't exactly pan out as planned, Russell fled L.A. for the quieter environs of Portland, Oregon, and started making this solo record on a four-track in his bedroom.
Adopting a less-is-more philosophy, Russell gets back to basics -- folk and country blues. Included with some thoughtful original compositions are fairly reverential treatments of traditional songs such as "John Hardy" and "Gamblers Blues". Playing virtually all the instruments here (guitars, percussion, keyboards), Russell explores his musical roots.
Lowdown World is a heartfelt, honest record that should appeal to fans of artists such as Peter Case and John Wesley Harding. While much of it is surprisingly dark in contrast to Russell's extroverted, fun-loving stage personality, his pop instincts are not completely buried. The standout songs here, the title track and "I'm A Stranger", have plenty of hook to go along with their acoustic porch vibe. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how fine a slide guitar player Russell proves to be.
The instinct to do it yourself is usually worth following, and that certainly was the case for Russell, whose growth as an artist is evident on Lowdown World.