Luther Russell – Repair (Adrenaline)
For 16 years, Luther Russell has been releasing records, initially as a member of The Freewheelers and, since 1997, as a solo artist. Even though both Freewheelers records had the added benefit of being released on major labels and even though practically every record that Russell has touched resulted in positive feedback from critics, there’s a good possibility that many readers are muttering “Luther who?” to themselves right now.
Part of the reason for this is because Luther tends to approach each new album with a blank palate, and the resulting portraits tend to be exclusive of one another. Some of the same colors may be used in each album, but none of them tend to sound alike. Just when a few fans have got him pegged, he moves on to another style, leaving the supporters of the first direction a little put off.
Thankfully, Luther Russell has managed to avoid such frustrations on the mere fact that he’s a talented musician that’s able to move around rock, acoustic blues, and folk genres without too much distraction.
Russell’s fourth solo album, Repair, finds him abandoning the folk directions laid on his last album (Spare Change) and cozying up to a more pop course.
Opening with the chamber-pop exercise “Rise & Shine,” it’s clear that Luther’s comfortable with his latest fling and, more importantly, nothing sounds contrived.
It helps that Russell, either intentionally or economically, keeps a live sound throughout Repair. Sparingly produced by Ethan Johns, the arrangements are uncluttered and lilt brightly ahead, even when the subjects themselves are a little dark.
“Parachute” probably stands out as the brightest song on the disk, with Russell’s wonderfully building up the tension with some clever acoustic slide before letting the amplifiers make their appearance with a minute-and-a-half left to spare.
Bright, hooky, and full of the same kind of nostalgia that’s brought Wilco notoriety, Repair is an album that’s only flaw may be its choice of a title: there’s very little on it that needs fixing at all.