[Full disclosure: I love Corb Lund's music. I love Guy Clark's music. I'd consider myself more of a casual fan of Tom Russell but there are hotspots where my love of his music burns bright.]
"I been drivin' grater, I'm a smooth operator, I wonder where all the gravel roads are"
-Corb Lund, "Long Gone To Saskatchewan"
Corb Lund's Losin' Lately Gambler is a really good record and worthy of place with the best of the rest of his catalog. Unfortunately for artists like Corb Lund, the bar is set high with brilliant records like Five Dollar Bill (his opus, imo) and Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! under his belt. "Chinook Wind" (a little Waylon-y at the onset), "Long Gone To Saskatchewan", "Talkin' Veterinarian Blues" and "Alberta Says Hello" are my early favorites. The two others that have a sentimental place for me are "It's Hard To Keep A White Shirt Clean" (written for Willie P. Bennett) and "Devil's Best Dress" which would fit fine on Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. As with all Corb Lund records, I give them multiple listens and they end up very high on the list when it's all said and done.
"It's a one-legged race to the liquor store"
-Tom Russell, "Mississippi River Runnin' Backwards"
Tom Russell's new record Blood and Candle Smoke starts off with "East Of Woodstock, West Of Vietnam". That song, coupled with the likes of "Nina Simone" and "Crosses Of San Carlos" yield a record that feels like some of Russell's previous work both due to the arrangement (especially with the horns) and some of the material covered. I don't mean that as a strike against this record. Blood And Candle Smoke just feels like well-worn, familiar territory that is at once new, unique and familiar. I find "Criminology" particularly intriguing because of the misdirection of the title, the history lesson contained within and the atypical arrangement (for TR). Bravo, Mr. Russell. "The Most Dangerous Woman In America" and "American Rivers" are also fascinating tunes. I like this record. It will garner a few more listens. Say what you will about Tom Russell, it's always interesting.
"'What do you want for that piece of junk' I asked the old man?"
-Guy Clark, "The Guitar"
The first two tracks of Guy Clarks "Somedays The Song Writes You" run deep with a feeling of being at the mercy of music whether you want to be or not. "The Coat", like some of the Russell tracks, sounds like familiar territory in a very good way. I found myself really enjoying this tune. For requisite Townes Van Zandt cover, Clark does a brisk version of "If I Needed You" which has long been my favorite TVZ song (so much so that we had Graham Weber play it during our wedding ceremony). Sailors and otherwise nautical fans will dig "Eamon" for sure. I enjoyed this record. Not quite as much his epics Cold Dog Soup, Dublin Blues, Guy Clark or Texas Cookin'. The first three songs on here are absolutely stunning and there's plenty of highlights on the rest of the record.
If you can spare the cash, buy these records. If you can't, pick one and you'll be pleased.
As good as these records are, they aren't quite as good as my current favorites for record of the year - Bingham's Roadhouse Sun and The Devil Makes Three's Do Wrong Right.