A bold alchemist, guitar-centric and on a fearless search for new modes of creative expression. An improviser. A vivid lyricist. A vocalist possessing an agile baritone saturated with emotive grit. Songcraft distilled from the warmth of vinyl album era singer-songwriters and sophisticated blue-jazz, while mining elements of dreamy 80's era post-punk. Add then a masterful guitarist - one whom Blues Revue aligned with the "fearlessness" of guitar legend, Jeff Beck - and you’ve got in front of you a captivating tunesmith by the name of Woody Russell.
A critically acclaimed, award-winning artist, Russell concerns himself with a certain aesthetic: "It's a jazz ethos, but, an inextricably tangled myriad of inspirations. Though the lines are blurred, I seem to work best with musical concepts as individual projects. I can't neatly categorize my music, but it is a continual progression and transformation, as is my life experience."
The often remarked upon multitude of colors in his music is the result of Russell's informed passion for seemingly disparate styles and his own musical cross-pollination at work. Whether intimately acoustic, employing looped manipulation of the latest music making technology or via expert craftsmanship using the recording studio as an instrument itself, Russell’s music bears the patina of being lived in and restless, revealing "the sound of a musician who's invested a lifetime in sharpening his playing."
"I BUILD MY UNIVERSE FROM WHATEVER WORN THREADS AND SCATTERED SHARDS CONNECT US TO EACH OTHER..."
"We all feel unseen a lot of the time. Each of us is wrestling with what it means to connect, to belong, from cradle to grave. It's messy and confusing." The words of an empathetic listener himself; a seemingly rare practice these days. "As a fellow traveller, I see you, I feel you and, as a songwriter, I write about you. I'm simply aiming for sincerity in my music, in my life, eschewing the small talk. We're all part of this same fabric." Woody admits that there's something wistful, and a certain romanticism, that surfaces in his work. "I sense it in conversation with people all the time. We question how we end up where we are, often derailed." Continuing, he notes that, as a lyricist and composer, he does not shy away from the complexity of our lives in his artistic expression either. "I love challenging music, art you listen to. Whether it is vocal tune or an instrumental, I aim to build my universe from whatever worn threads and scattered shards connect us to each other, to our histories, to places populated with characters by the names of regret, love, isolation and redemption, but also, to that sense of wonder at the center of it all."
His origin story begins – more or less – as a southwestern Montana boy, the FM dial, a modest record collection and his sister's unwanted classical guitar. Each of those seeds having been planted long before uprooting the country kid to a musician's grind in Seattle clubs during the heyday of Grunge. Following another relocation, his story continues with unrelenting effort based in the eclectic, roots music epicenter of Austin, Texas. It's been a persistent creative pulse, ultimately forging an artist now thousands of gigs in to his career. Woody continues to honor an ever-present spark of "fascination with guitars and songcraft", stoking that original flame while delivering new recordings released on his own CUTS Music Group label.
Russell has released a catalogue of diverse recordings, or "variations", as he refers to it. The variations are, by his measure, "something akin to completely different indentities. Admittedly, the details delineating my work, that is, one project seperate from another, are a bit hazy." After striking out on his own following the earliest bands of his career, his "solo" recordings begin with the folk infused fare of his debut, As Simple As That (1996). A Thousand One-Eighties (1998) and Time To Go (2001) were two subsequent releases while still based in Seattle. After relocating to Austin, Russell followed up with a new band and the rootsy IMA "Album Of The Year" nominated, Salt (2005). The successful blues and soul album, Up Against It (2010), received much critical praise in national and international blues press. Though that recording was technically a notable departure from his previous releases, his first major "variation" surfaced as the rich instrumental/orchestral/jazz project, Big Sky (2012, and subsequently remastered for a 2023 re-release). Successive albums offered up funkier pop-jazz and adult-oriented rock hues with Delicious Days (2013) and Carry It Up (2016). A second variation, Russell's self-described "pandemic lockdown project", Still Wilson (2020), offered an ambitious pairing of six videos with each of the six single releases. Late 2023 saw the release of a 3-song EP project recorded between late 2020 through mid-'21, This Is Son Solitaire (2023), which also garnered very high marks from reviewers. Son Solitaire is another “variation” he considered an individual artistic identity. It presents an intricate art-rock/post-punk sound of which The Hollywood Digest said, “…aspires to more than mere entertainment.” Russell is also currently recording new music for another release for 2024.
From his early career in Seattle during the Grunge explosion to now calling Austin his home, he is a self-described "working class musician", performing 200+ dates a year at all manner of venues and major stages; from house concerts to the prestigious Newport Folk Festival. He's been a prominently featured artist on the CW Network's docu-reality show, "Troubadour, TX", a Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Roster Artist and a 2019 Austin Music Awards Poll Top Ten Songwriter.
"My work is not based on reasons that would garner the widest possible audience. But, I crossed that river long ago. I am, admittedly, haunted by a mysterious magic we call music. I have to trust in the ten-thousand hour rule and in my own compass when it comes to my art."