120 Songs, by Tom Russell

120 Songs
Singer, songwriter, painter, essayist…Tom Russell’s is known as one of the most compelling performers in the world and is recognized as a master American lyricist. And now, with 120 Songs, Russell presents his first-ever collection of lyrics, handpicked and individually introduced, and complemented by a set of his original woodcut illustrations.

From classics like “Blue Wing,” “Gallo del Cielo,” “Navajo Rug,” and “Outbound Plane” to newer songs like “Guadalupe,” and “Mesabi” this volume is the only available anthology, in print, of all of Russell’s finest songs and unpublished rarities. Each song includes an introduction and guitar chords, and the main introduction also includes details of Russell’s brief encounters with Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

Book Information

Dimensions: 7 ½ x 9
Price: $19.95
Release Date: August 25, 2011


Tom Russell Songs travel. They come out of the whorehouses, bars, and churches and fly away on the tongues of the rakes and rambling boys. They mutate, shift gears, add another chorus and sail across the seven seas. The old songs come from the folk, but are never buried with the folk. The good songs endure. They gather ye round an audience and spin the lyrical news of the day. They amuse or hurt, divert and stop time for a holy moment. They pretend to be art, and sometimes succeed. With a snicker. They suck us in, slap us around, kick us in the belly and heart, and then push us back out into the world with a memory we’ll never purge from our blood. The good songs. They tell us subliminal things about love we knew but wouldn’t admit. Songs. They are the weapons of the fortune teller, the rogue, the Don Juan, the cowboy, the troubadour, songstress, minstrel, Bard, opera singer, and shoeshine boy. They are the melodic pitch of every Molly Malone hawking mussels in the marketplace. They beguile us with their sing-song rhyme and tinkle-down melodies, yet they are imbued with truer feel for human history, poetry, emotion, and cold hard facts of life, then a thousand dusty tomes from social scientists, poets, politicians, theologians, and academic historians. Songs travel.

That’s why I was attracted to the trade.

— Tom Russell
From his Introduction


“Tom Russell is Johnny Cash, Jim Harrison and Charles Bukowski rolled into one. I feel a great affinity with Tom Russell’s songs, for he is writing out of the wounded heart of America.”
­— Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“The best songwriter of my generation…raises and sets the bar for contemporary singer-songwriters.”
­— Mike Regenstreif, Montreal Gazette

“Tom Russell is an original, a brilliant songwriter with a restless curiosity and an almost violent imagination.”
­— Annie Proulx

“I so admire his work. Its fine craft, and posey, none of which dwarfs its embracing humanity and urgings.”
­— Van Dyke Parks

“The most powerful voice on the contemporary folk circuit…”
­— Boston Globe

“The greatest living country songwriter…he’s written songs that capture the essence of America. A trait that can only be matched by the country’s greatest novelists…”
­— John Swenson, Rolling Stone

“The lyrics are jewels.”
­— Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead Lyricist