Personnel: Tom Russell (vocals, guitar); Tom Russell; Jack Kerouac, Lenny Bruce, Virginia Brown, Charles Bukowski (vocals, spoken vocals); Edward Abbey, Reverend Baybie Hoover, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Harry Partch (vocals); Jack Elliott (spoken vocals); Jim Murphy (steel guitar); Fats Kaplin (pedal steel guitar, fiddle, accordion); Mikael Lorca Martin, Michael Lorca Martin (mandolin); Joel Jose Guzman, Joel Guzman (accordion); Billy "Dee" Donahue (bass instrument); Chris Gibson (drums); Dave Van Ronk, Andrew Hardin (vocals, guitar); Gretchen Peters, Mark Hallman (vocals); Redd Volkaert (guitar); Tony Campise (flute, saxophone).
Audio Mixer: Mark Hallman.
Recording information: Congress House Studios, Austin, TX (07/2004-10/2004).
Songwriter Tom Russell has long been possessed by the ghosts and places of history, big and small, from William Faulkner and outlaw Claude Dallas to Jack Johnson, Little Willie John and Bill Haley, from Manzanar to Begenfield. There are also dozens of nameless, faceless denizens barely hanging on to the fringes on both sides of the border, cheated endlessly by life yet becoming archetypes in the American myth of Russell's songs. Hotwalker is subtitled "Charles Bukowski and a Ballad for Gone America." This is Russell's latest conceptual work, a palette of excess lovingly offered to the heroes of his life, those that defined for him the America that has been erased from the popular psychic topography and has entered into the hallways of myth and memory. This is a record of Russell's aesthetic life and era. Bukowski is the big patron saint in these songs and monologues, as are Dave Van Ronk, Edward Abbey, Jack Kerouac, Harry Partch, Ramblin Jack Elliot, and fabled circus performer Little Jack Horton. The voices of many of these icons waft through the proceedings. Horton was recorded specifically for this offering, but Abbey, Bukowski, Kerouac (accompanied by Steve Allen), Lenny Bruce and Partch are all here too. Singling out these songs would be a disservice to Russell and to this recording. This is the most haggard of Russell's albums. It's a wreck in many ways, full of bloated lines and hackneyed melodies and near ranted spoken word pieces. But it hardly matters because polish isn't what fuels a project like this; inspiration is. And Hotwalker is drenched in inspiration, possessed by it, compelled and driven by it to realize something beyond speech or music; some spectral presence hovers here, and remains for a bit after the set ends. That is its achievement: that one can not only feel Russell's passion, but can nearly see the scenes and people he portrays here. This is not easy listening, but it just may be necessary. ~ Thom Jurek
Uncut (p.106) - 5 stars out of 5 - "HOTWALKER is a colossal achievement....It's the lost post-war landscape of Beat pioneers, outsider poets and drunken angels..."
Dirty Linen (p.60) - "It's a tribute to outsider culture....HOTWALKER is a fascinating trip back to a lost era and is an original work by anyone's standards."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.98) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Russell's growling, atmospheric songs are interspersed with intriguing cameos....A graphic paean to a maverick, free-spirited, yet more beautiful age."