Album Review

Tom Russell (and Others) - Wounded Heart

Tom Russell - Wounded Heart

At first blush, this seems a bit presumptuous: An artist compiling a tribute album to himself? That appears to be the case with Wounded Knee, which collects Tom Russell songs rendered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Dave Van Ronk, Iris DeMent, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Doug Sahm and others, plus a handful of Russell's own performances as a capper. But, come to think of it, when it's a matter of gathering songs that have already been recorded, maybe there should be a lot more tribute albums like this, because who's a better judge of cover versions than the artist who wrote the songs? In this instance, it certainly helps that Russell has written or co-written some unquestionably indelible ones, including "Gallo Del Cielo" (long a showstopper for Joe Ely), "Blue Wing" (a perfect fit for Dave Alvin), and "Navajo Rug" (a title track to a Jerry Jeff Walker album). The album's standout is "Outbound Plane", somewhat surprisingly not the version by Nanci Griffith (who appears in duet with Ian Tyson on "Canadian Whiskey"), but an equally fine take by Suzy Bogguss. Overall, Wounded Heart makes a strong case for Russell's inclusion amid the higher ranks of Americana songwriting masters.