A gaggle of Gourds
alumni and other Austin stalwarts gathers around Russell
on this raggedy, amiable outing. Acoustic textures blow a dusty film over Russell
's saloon croon as he delivers the Texas equivalent of old-time British pub rock. His writing is deliberately cockeyed; one wonderful song, "I'm a Robot," was co-written with his nearly three-year-old son and thus spills over with images that range from the Power Rangers to Jesus Christ. (Dad and collaborator briefly reprise the chorus as a duo at the end of the disc.) But even on his own there's something exuberantly anarchic about Russell
; who knows why he put a portrait of Ivan Pavlov, complete with birth and death dates, next to an original folk fable he calls "Blackfoot"? This attitude guides and, despite all odds, distinguishes his writing throughout Buttermilk & Rifles
as well; whether turning the title of "Ashes in M'Beard" to nonsense through demented repetition or shrugging off his hometown as "a stone on the moon" on the besotted lament "Milk & Tears," he hurls images around like dice on a bar and seems to come up a winner every time.