Tom Russell didn't invent the musical style we call Americana any more than Al Gore invented the internet. But Russell did have a strong hand in shaping the genre; in fact, the California native and West Texas resident might be the music's very definition. Even talking about Russell strictly in musical terms doesn't do him justice. He's as literary as he is lyrical -- giving us cowboy novels or modern-day Homeric narratives set to song. He was the force behind Tulare Dust
, the Merle Haggard tribute compilation that honored Depression Era migrants (Haggard was one) as much as it did the country-music legend himself.
Russell's "Man From God Knows Where" chronicles his own family's journey from the British Isles to the American West. His new CD, Cowboys, Indians, Horses, Dogs, is a collection of his own compositions, a few covers, and some traditional songs of the Old West, with longtime guitarist Andrew Hardin shining again and Russell, Joe Ely, and Eliza Gilkyson trading vocals on Bob Dylan's "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts."