You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.
Russell: Yeah, so I waited practically a lifetime for this moment, and when it arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. Why? Lord knows, it’s chock full of half-baked ideas, half-formed jokes, half-recorded dirges and half-an-idea of what was being done in the first place. But this is Bob Dylan at the height of his powers and a very hungry bunch of dudes that became the Band soon after, and there are many, many revelations. “Wild Wolf” comes to mind, a song that was only a misremembered legend, a piece of Dylan lore, and there it is, for the world to hear, and it is magnificent: a minor-key specter under a starry night. And in the context of this trove of Scotch tapes, how the hell did “Goin’ To Acapulco” appear, apparently written and performed after Bob trained-on-down to Nashville to make John Wesley Harding? It could be a pinnacle and is most certainly a musical miracle, many of which abound on this exhaustive-but-rewarding collection of the magic that happened in that basement, with a dog lying on the floor and light pouring in the windows and good, strong coffee: all ingredients that make great art, in my book. If you think it’s just scraps, then consider the torn pieces of paper, sketches and musings that one found in Matisse’s or Picasso’s basement. Still a wonder to look at, feel and touch.