Critically acclaimed, award winning vocalist, guitarist and composer, Woody Russell has released a body of recorded work that spans from the folk-rock infused songwriter fare of his first album, …As Simple As That (1996) to the more recent and highly praised blues/soul release of Up Against It (2010) and the pop-jazz shades of Delicious Days (2013). A year in the making, his newest full length album, Carry It Up, is Russell’s most ambitious recording effort to date. Again, his sophisticated jazz-adjacent songwriting is present throughout and the band turns in one exceptional performance after another. Mainstays from previous WR lineups include bassist extraordinaire, Brady Muckelroy and harmonica ace, Jose Ruiz. New additions, Lloyd Wright (piano, keys), Derrick Hicks (piano), Tony Miller (drums) and special guest vocalist, Jacqui Walker, shine through with inspired performances. The recording is brimming with excellent solos and ensemble interplay. But, what elevates the game this time around is Russell’s very fine delivery as a vocalist regarding both the arrangements and performances. There is no mistake that he possesses a voice which places him as a frontrunner on the jazzier side of the performing songwriter scene. And, not unlike a primary influence, Van Morrison, he navigates the sound of his words with a rhythmic precision and melodic expression akin to a jazz improviser. Then there’s his guitar playing, which Blues Revue likened to “the fearlessness of Jeff Beck”.
The Austin, Texas based Russell has always been a genre-blurring artist and Carry It Up is no exception. As a lyricist, Woody digs deep in to intimate narratives and is equally comfortable addressing a broader social consciousness. The album focuses on themes of love, compassion, tolerance, respect and the quest for all of the aforementioned. An acoustic cover – Russell’s first - of Marvin Gaye’s chestnut, “What’s Going On” features the tenor sax of Chi-town transplant, Dez Desormeaux, and is right at home amid the rest of this original work. The end result with Carry It Up is a lush, complex recording with a soul-jazz heart, created by a master craftsman and his superb band.