As a longtime subcultural icon, cellist Arthur Russell was a musician of remarkable esteem and talent.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Russell collaborated with everyone from Phillip Glass to the Talking Heads to Bootsy Collins. His early 80s No Wave disco experiments as Loose Joints and Dinosaur L were light years ahead of their time and created the template for New York’s dance-punk movement in the early 2000s. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Russell’s super-emotive solo output (consisting mostly of Russell playing pedal-effected cello and singing) refigured what American folk music could be.
He worked feverishly throughout his life but never quite broke through to a greater audience. Like a great number of legendary artists, the man died in 1992 of AIDS-related illness, broke and virtually unknown outside of certain music circles, only to be rediscovered by intrepid listeners long after his passing.
However tragic his narrative may be, Russell’s legacy is indelible and he is without question one of the great American left field heroes.
New York label Audika has done a remarkable job of making his work available to new audiences and has just released an LP of his previously unheard work called Corn. The album is a glimpse into the heart and mind of that rarest of things in music today, an artist expressing their truth without boundaries. And it is absolutely stunning.