REVIEWS OF 'Rebel Radio' (2001- 2002)
We have several French reviews of Calvin's last CD, 'Rebel Radio', released in 2001-2002. Thanks to Kelley Smoot for providing these French articles.
REBEL RADIO REVIEWS: PAGE ONE
REBEL RADIO REVIEWS: PAGE TWO
REVIEWS OF 'In Spite of it All' (2005) CD:
From MailOrder News, Blue Rose Records:
CALVIN RUSSELL is a musical storyteller who turns sounds into pictures and lyrics into emotions. His blues-soaked tracks describe the adventures of the free life, document his yearning for independence and symbolise the vulnerability that a sensitive spirit like his inevitably suffers from. Yet his new album, 'In Spite Of It All', sounds clearly more optimistic than his 2001 offering, 'Rebel Radio'. “If you always choose the same path the wolf is going to get you sooner or later,” is his philosophy on the subject of diversity.
Russell has a penchant not only for melancholy blues tunes, but also for rock music, particularly of the sort that the Rolling Stones specialised in during the early Seventies. Every rock music buff’s heart beats faster when Calvin Russell goes into ‘Voodoo River’ or ‘Just Like L.A.’ with their clattering drums, raw riffs and mercilessly roaring rock guitars. These two songs in particular express his fascination for the Wild West the way he encountered it during his repeated travels through the desert between Texas and California. Russell’s modesty when he documents his own humble needs in ‘All I Need’ also stems from these experiences. “I’m a lazy dog,” he says, explaining his attitude of taking life in his stride.
'In Spite Of It All' shows Calvin Russell as one of America’s authentic songwriters who carries his heart on his tongue and reveals every corner of his big soul to his fans. Marked by life in the exciting Sixties and colourful Seventies, his unconditional pragmatism is omnipresent. “I just wanna live till I die,” he sings (‘Live Till I Die’), looks back on his eventful life (‘In Spite Of It All’) and closes the album with ‘Cans’, a heart-rending, melancholy slow blues number: “Homeless, helpless, hopeless, I guess IŽd be penniless unless I found beer cans, coke cans, all kinds”, he laments, summing up the part of his earthly existence that he spent in poverty and inner conflict.
REVIEWS OF 'In Spite of it All' (2005) CD:
From Michael Mee, NetRhythms.co.uk:
If you like your music slick, nicely packaged and sterile then you'll be mighty disappointed by Calvin Russell's 'In Spite Of It All' because this is music of the the real life, untamed rock 'n' roller.
Born in 1948 he picked up a guitar at aged 12, a year later he was playing in a band fittingly called The Cavemen.
He spent the 80s living the life of a vagabond, including a spell in a Mexican jail. On his release he 'upgraded' to the dirt space underneath a house in Old Clarkesville as he attempted to launch his musical career.
In many ways Calvin Russell is a musician out of his time. Not only has he lived the life of a character from a Hemingway novel or a Woody Guthrie song, he clings tenaciously to the belief that music needs guts more than it needs soul.
This uncompromising approach is as much a product of his Texan environment as a career choice. A child who lives by the sea learns to swim, a boy who loves music and is from Texas plays wild country blues. Russell walks a parallel path to Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark etc., musically they differ, spiritually they are hewn from the same granite.
Even in his late 50s the rebellious streak is strong in Calvin Russell, like Iggy Pop there is no allowance for age, no dimming of the raging fire that fuels his music. And, like Pop, when you play as well and as committed as Russell does then age truly is just a number.
'In Spite Of It All' is full of hard-driving riffs, it's rock foundations are solid and immovable. Songs like Live Till I Die are rooted in Russell's life and experience. It mirrors and reflects his apparent obsession with being open to, and absorbing, every musical and life influence. It makes for music without fear and, when he sings' he's the President and I don't care' it's not just a line from a song it's a statement of intent.
While the spirit of Calvin Russell remains defiantly unbroken and 'In Spite Of It All' is mainly a glorious white knuckle ride, Over and Over reveals the man behind it all. ' It takes a lot to get excited these days and all of my fun habits got too big in price to pay' are the bitingly honest words of a man who has taken stock of a life lived well if not always wisely, a colourful past comes with a price tag.
Calvin Russell is one of those rare musical treasures, a musician willing to reveal what lies beneath the skin and the rough-edged, roughouse 'In Spite Of It All' leaves no stone unturned.
From Pete Smith, TEXAS TWISTER RADIO & RECORDS:
Calvin Russell describes himself as “An outlaw rock and roll soldier fighting sorrow in modern times”. That is an apt description for a singer / writer who has more than paid his dues. The sixth of nine children born to a short order cook and a waitress, Calvin knew at first hand what hard times and poverty were. After learning guitar at the age of twelve he played rhythm with the Cavemen a year later. A spell in juvenile correction was followed by goal then a spell of wandering across Texas writing about the world as he saw it. More prison, then sleeping underneath a house in Old Clarkesville after he had finished his evenings hanging out in the drinks and drug dens inhabited by fellow struggling writers. Today, after several albums, Calvin is basically the same guy. He still writes urban poetry putting his own inimitable slant on his raw, laconic views of life.
The new album “In Spite Of It All” (SPV) is hard hitting country boogie with Russell expressing his no holds barred opinions on the President (“Oval Room”), how to live life (“Live Till I Die”) and what hell is really like (“Just Like L.A.”). The last track, “Cans”, runs for almost eight minutes but is really two tracks in one. The song, featuring some really awesome guitar work, is following by a short break then an equally short instrumental then after another break Russell’s unique take on the Frankie Laine classic “Rawhide”. Not an album for the dyed-in-the-wool but if you are into Texas singer / writers they don’t come better than Calvin Russell.