Woody Russell’s This is Son Solitaire is a brief release, clocking in at three songs, but the EP makes a more substantive statement with that trio of tracks than many full-length releases accomplish. The Austin, Texas musician/singer/songwriter doesn’t boast an extensive discography, but his slender slate of offerings thus far sets a high standard for modern songwriting that This is Son Solitaire continues in splendid fashion.
We’re served notice of that fact with the EP’s first track. “Swinging for the Fences” does just that as Russell inflates the track with rhythm section bombast that’s certain to garner any listener’s attention. His lyrics for the song traffic in plain-spoken conversational writing that nonetheless pierces the heart of the subject and delivers a coherent message for listeners. The guitar work present in this track works as a crowning touch for the arrangement. Of the three songs included on this EP, “Swinging for the Fences” is an obvious pick for the release’s opener.
“Lifeboat”, however, eschews the heavy guitar presence in favor of labyrinth synthesizer lines that give the second track surprising density. A familiar complaint about synthesizers is that they compromise songs with their often cold, sterile sound, but Russell’s songs prove that it’s all about how you use them. “Lifeboat” radiates warmth from beginning to end. It continues exploring the same lyrical themes prevalent in the overall release without repeating what comes before or after. It’s the EP’s longest track, as well, running over the five-and-a-half-minute mark without ever trying the listener’s patience.
The EP’s final curtain comes down with the track “Straight Space (Unhinged)”. This is, without question, the most verbose and lyrical adroit tune included in This is Son Solitaire. Russell’s writing is symbol-laden, without a doubt, but the familiarity of his imagery helps communicate a clear message. It’s a socially conscious tune laden with personal implications; Russell isn’t writing solely as a commentator but as a participant as well. The arrangement hinges on several unpredictable turns that uniformly pan out for both the composer and listener.
It may seem and sound like a slight, condensed musical statement at first glance. Diving into the musical wealth of This is Son Solitaire, however, reveals a multi-faceted work even within three scant songs and it’s seldom content with following a single path for long. Woody Russell’s music pops and resounds with an assortment of surprises. He never feels like he’s going over the listener’s heads, however.
This is a thoroughly accessible work despite its obvious excellence. Russell latches onto a big, wide-screen sound that involves listeners in every second of these three songs. He handles the production for this release as well and, despite his intimate relation with the material, shows a deep understanding of how to best portray his work for audiences. Woody Russell’s This is Son Solitaire opens the latest chapter in one of the indie music world’s most formidably gifted artists that newcomers and long-time fans alike will enjoy and embrace. More importantly, it encourages them to keep coming back for more.