From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “Fear” By John Cale

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 all week.

Russell: A close friend of mine, poet/writer John Tottenham, once put the song “Buffalo Ballet” on one of the many mix tapes he’s made for me over the years. It’s only recently that I’ve picked up a copy of the record this song lives on. To say Fear has blown me away is an understatement. This is great songwriting, performing and an eerie sense of what lies “ahead” in music—to the point that it still sounds fresh today, more than 40 years later. I guess it makes sense Cale recorded it concurrent to producing groundbreaking tone poems like Horses by Patti Smith. The opening track, “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend,” has to have one of the best drum sounds I’ve heard on a rock record. The ending dissolves into a frustrated strangle of the elements that make up the body of the track. Elsewhere on the record are weddings of cascading piano to stuttering, staccato guitar to remind anyone listening that the artist is constantly on the creative search, like a musical shark in murky, anodyne waters.