If one believes his record label, Tom Russell who's been called "the greatest living country songwriter" has "shaken off his folk troubadour shackles." But while the characters in his narrative tunes (including honor-bound cock-fighters, businessmen-turned-drifters, early R&B singers and Russell's own grandfather) are often shackled in some way, the songwriter's muse has rarely seemed constrained. Far from the cowboy-noir that may be his only vice, Russell's new Love & Fear might be his most personal album, yet retains his gifts for tale-spinning and stately melody and between singing about fat men and aging boxers, Russell can't seem to ditch those crusty characters. Old habits, thankfully, die hard.
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