From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “Fat City”

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: I recently re-watched this John Huston masterpiece from 1972 which stars Stacy Keach, Susan Tyrell and a very young Jeff Bridges. One of the great boxing films, it tells the tragic tale of a past-his-prime ex-contender named Tully (played by Keach) who has fallen on hard times in Northern California and decides to get back into it once he meets a promising young kid (played by Bridges). Tully’s life has been fucked up ever since his wife left him. He’s a terrible alcoholic, can’t hold down a job and picks fruit and vegetables with migrant workers to make ends meet. This is his one last shot, and he goes for it with gusto. He picks up a floozy (played by Tyrell—she is just amazing in this film; I think she even got nominated for an Oscar for her role). Keach is just a brilliant and underrated actor, and this film shows why. Sure, I grew up knowing Keach as the asshole cop in those Cheech & Chong movies, but have since discovered what beautiful range he has. There’s an unmistakable air of Steinbeck in this film’s down-and-out story and location. Fat City was based on a novel by Leonard Gardner, and I guess he’s gone on to be acclaimed by the likes of Joan Didion.