Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., July 13, 2012
Tom RussellMesabi (Shout! Factory)
The Mesabi Iron Range is in Minnesota. Described as the chief deposit of iron ore in the US, it's also the location of Hibbing, birthplace of Bob Dylan. Like many singer-songwriters approaching retirement age, Tom Russell takes great inspiration from Dylan, so Mesabi uses that as a jumping-off point for a collection of songs tying together cultural icons James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and obscure historical figures Sterling Hayden and Ukulele Ike with places real and imaginary: Juarez, Mexico, and Never Never Land. The second consecutive disc he's accomplished with assistance from members of Calexico, it also features Lucinda Williams on a somber rendition of Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," plus Augie Meyers, who co-wrote the appropriately woozy "And God Created Border Towns." As ambitious and poetic as Russell's ever been, Mesabi continues the Texas dweller's renaissance from aging folkie to adventurous craftsman.