From the moment Luther Russell’s new album, Repair, began playing in my headphones I knew I was in for a treat, but I also felt a wave of frustration overtake me. On the one hand I was grateful there was this wonderful voice and talent being introduced to me, but I couldn’t help feeling sad I’d never noticed Russell before. There is a part of me that prides myself on being fairly experienced as a fan of music, and it just kills me when I find I am late to discovering good music.
On a side note, that same part of me causes my wife no end of headaches, as it often drives me to purchase everything this new artist — new to me, leastways — has ever recorded in their entire life. And yes, I’ll admit to being an obsessive twit, dear wife, as I know you’ll eventually read this review and shake your head at me.
At least in the case of Russell and his music, though, I can claim a legitimate excuse as to why I’m late to the party. When faced with the breakup of his marriage, the former front man for the Freewheelers, dealt with the heartache and depression by stepping away from the world of music, entirely.
“After I moved back to Los Angeles, after a tough separation and divorce, I was a bit lost creatively,” Russell explained to Indie music blog, Obscure Sound.
Luckily, Russell found his way out of his creative funk, thanks to a chance meeting of Ethan Johns, producer of such artists as Ryan Adams and the Kings of Leon, while in a record shop. Mutual admiration led to the both of them talking and eventually getting together to allow Russell a chance to find a musical outlet to the stress and emotions that had been bottled up within him.
Slowly at first, and with more surety as things began to sound better than Russell feared, the two continued work and eventually ended up with the completion of Russell’s fourth album, and judging from repeated listens to his earlier three — I told you I was obsessive! — his best work to date.
While not as enthusiastically experimental and ambitious as his previous work, Repair just manages to have this laid-back sense of an artist who found something that works for him at this part of his life, and then rode it for all it was worth. Catchy hooks, enjoyable melodies, and some of the loveliest lyrics dealing with decidedly unlovely emotions as you are ever likely to encounter, all adds up a remarkable album.
In a world of artists who release albums filled to the brim with calculated song-writing and choreographed emotion — James Blunt, anyone? — Repair is a refreshing blend of stripped-down confessional songs that never pretend to be anything other than themselves, or their author. Perhaps due to the heartbreak that inspired them, the immediacy of Russell and Johns deciding to record each song live and in-studio with nearly no overdubs, or even due to nothing more or less than an artist finally catching up to his potential — Russell’s Repair is a wonderful collection of what can fairly be described as folk-pop.
Know what else it can be described as? Good music.
Standout tracks include “Rise and Shine,” “ Everybody Falls,” “My Own Blood,” and the album’s first single “The Razor.” If my words have made you the least bit curious as to what this album sounds like, Russell has uploaded three of the album’s songs onto his myspace page. While the album has not yet reached nationwide release in stores, if listening to his songs has you wanting to purchase the album, it is currently available on itunes.