Missoula’s honky-tonkin’ music icon Russ Nasset, he of the burn-barrel voice and fleet-fingered guitar licks, has produced another (mostly) solo CD. He has accompaniment on a few numbers, but mostly it’s just him, his distinctive baritone sound, gravelly and expressive, and a guitar.
Joining him on this stockpile of folk and cowboy pieces are a couple of family members: son Sam (who plays with his dad in The Revelators) plays sleek electric guitar on four tracks, and granddaughter Ella sings on Glen Ohrlin’s “My Home’s in Montana.”
John Parker adds an old-time feel with clawhammer banjo on the traditional song, “Tyin’ Knots in the Devil’s Tail”; David Horgan spills sweet syrup via lap steel on “Cool Water”; and Richie Reinholdt thumps the upright bass on Harlan Howard’s bittersweet “The Blizzard.”
Nasset is a rocker, yes, but his riveting interpretations of these cherished nuggets command attention. Many are sagas about events gone haywire, perfectly suited to his storytelling abilities. He weathered a series of serious medical problems years back, and that seeps into his vocals.
Tom Russell’s “The Sky Above and the Mud Below,” a colorful tale of horse thieves and a preacher who takes revenge, is putty in Nasset’s hands. His voice, still soaked in the whiskey and smoke it gobbled in days of old, smolders and cracks, and he reaches way down for hushed bass notes at the end of verses. Same with the western waltz, “The Streets of Laredo,” where he deploys his deep bass to sing the “So beat the drum slowly” chorus.
And who can resist the wistful “Shenandoah”? Nasset gives it a loping country feel, and plays the melody line on baritone guitar while Sam joins in on electric. Russ sings the lyrics with his voice doubled, too. It’s perfect.
The elder Nasset has been at this for a long time, and the years shine in his voice. We are fortunate to have an artist like him in our midst.
Find the band on Facebook at Russ Nasset and the Revelators.
– Mariss McTucker