June 20, 1988 12:00 PM

Tom Russell

These two Brooklyn cowboys are proof that country music is not as foreign as one might expect in a town where the good ol’ boys ride the F train instead of the range. Rabbitt (RCA) was born there; Russell (Philo/ Rounder) was born in Los Angeles but lives in Brooklyn now. Both sound as if they had spent their whole lives in Abilene or Muscle Shoals. I Wanna Dance with You is the first record Rabbitt has made since his son Timmy died of a congenital liver problem just short of his second birthday in 1985. The album contains a satisfying cross section of country—and countrified—tunes. There’s Rhonda, an on-the-road song reminiscent of Rabbitt’s Drivin’ My Life Away, the nicely romantic That’s Why I Fell in Love with You and a spirited remake of the Dion hit (written by Ernest Maresca), The Wanderer. Rabbitt’s voice and guitar seem in fine shape, and Nashville studio drummer James Stroud enjoys more of a workout than he does on the standard country album. This is an energetic, uncommonly consistent album. Russell cultivates a slightly more rugged sound and ranges wider in finding material for his songs, all of which he at least co-writes himself. The thoroughly enjoyable and intelligent Road to Bayamon includes a tune about a mill closing, U.S. Steel, one about an alcoholic drink, Mezcal, one with a literary bent, William Faulkner in Hollywood, and one, Joshua Tree, that puts Russell in the hardly down-homey company of U2. And Russell’s aggressive, rock-tinged band has enough country touches—a lot of them coming from pedal-steel-, fiddle-, accordion player Fats Kaplin—to allow its leader to have a reasonable amount of credibility when he poses for those pictures wearing his cowboy hat.

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