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ALBUM REVIEW

Shake Russell Trio
LIVE AT GRUENE HALL
©2007 Shake Russell
MTM102321
Review by Lucky Boyd

 

“No extra horns, no dancing bears.” If that could sum it up, then Shake Russell’s own words would suffice, but this self-inscribed summation scratches only the surface of how different this project is from previous releases. A two-disc set, one is the CD, and the other is a DVD shadowing the title list of the CD but with candid interjections from Shake Russell and his band mates, Doug Floyd and Mike Roberts. The DVD opens with dialogue from Russell explaining the project and preparing the viewer for the amazing things to come. Russell adds stories to the beginning of a few of the cuts offering insight into the creation and inspiration of the upcoming selection. When the show begins, it’s typical Gruene Hall, and you can almost feel the heat. Russell and the boys start right in on a fan favorite, “Hank Williams Moon.” I guess I would have liked the stage lighting at Gruene Hall’s bar stage to be a little better, but you can only expect so much in a dance hall that’s been standing for over 130 years. All the spirits converge, however, and Shake Russell’s performance is nothing short of stellar as he offers sound nouveau in a trio as adept and Texan as they come. Russell’s classic guitar sound coupled with acoustic bass and Floyd’s mandolin offer the perfect accompaniment for the smooth velvet vocals made famous over the past thirty years. The Shake Russell Band is the current incarnation of the Shake Russell experience, offering a traditional sound with innovative arrangements and fills. Russell has even begun to sing many of his songs just a little differently than the way they were recorded years ago. This artistic interpretation of his own works offers fans a true glimpse at how Russell sees his own music. Alas, comfort meets style and grace, and Shake Russell has elevated himself with this project to a new level. Fans who have followed Russell for decades have been satisfied settling only for new material for a while now, but Russell offers them something more precious. Shake Russell has re-invented himself from within. As someone who has watched Shake Russell perform for a long time, I can tell you there’s an amazing difference within him. Russell has come through dark periods in his life with modest rebounds, but never anything like this. Finally, Shake Russell is at peace with his musical soul and it shows in every note. There are no struggles or tentative engagements in his performance, and he all but channels John Vandiver when singing “Comin’ Home.” The videography is as good as it gets inside Gruene Hall, but Orris Brown of LIVE FROM TEXAS captures the Shake Russell Band in a manner that will stand as an archive for all time. Who knows where technology and the delivery of musical performances will take us in the future, but know this: Shake Russell’s “LIVE AT GRUENE HALL” has historical significance, and will certainly be used hundreds of years from now to teach mankind of the talent that is today, the attitude that is Texas, and the genius that is Shake Russell. I hate to put it this way, but if you don’t buy this DVD, you’re probably just plain silly.

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