Classic Clips: Tom Russell “Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?” – Late Night with David Letterman, 2007

What can you say about Tom Russell that hasn’t already been said either by critics, fellow musicians and songwriters, along with some of the most esteemed wordsmiths of our generation:

“Best songwriter of my generation” (Mike Reaganstreiff – Montreal Gazette).
“Tom Russell is Johnny Cash, Jim Harrison, and Charles Bukowski rolled into one” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti –  Renowned Poet).
“Tom Russell is the last great American voice” (Ken Bruen – Crime Fiction Novelist).
“The greatest living folk-country songwriter is a man named Tom Russell” (John Swenson -Rolling Stone).

The song ‘Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?’, originally appeared on the album ‘Wounded Heart Of America‘, (2007), a tribute album of Russell’s songs covered by such legendary artist as Johnny Cash, Doug Sahm, Joe Ely, Dave Alvin, Suzy Bogguss, Iris DeMent, Nanci Griffith, and Jerry Jeff Walker. The track itself is one of only two new songs, the other being ‘The Death Of Jimmy Martin’, to appear on the album.

Russell made no less than five appearances on the nationally televised show ‘Late Night With David Letterman’, but it was his performance of ‘Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?’, in 2007, that went viral, seeing him become the recipient of numerous death threats for what, a large number of ill-informed viewers seemed to interpret as a, highly political song, rather than the astutely observant song that it clearly was, and so typical of the majority of songs in Russell’s almost incomparable canon of work.

So, with the U.S. Elections looming on the horizon, and all the current farcical shenanigans and court cases helping to raise tensions towards fever pitch already, what better time to return to the master songsmith’s classic folk song for the modern era and, at the risk of upsetting the ill-informed, ask the uncomfortable question, ‘Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?’.







About Graeme Tait 125 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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Paul Kerr

A great selection.Brilliant song and oh so relevant these days.

Andrew Riggs

Great song as most of his songs are, released a fine album with Dave Alvin many years ago.