Simon Russell is one of those artists who has remembered a simple musical truth. One that so many of his fellow artists seem to have forgotten. Getting noticed is about something other than gizmos, gimmicks, guest rappers, or dance routines. The answer to getting noticed doesn’t lay in mere style; it is found in actual substance. The simple truth is this: good songs get seen, and great artists get talked about. Art By You is a collection of good songs, and Simon Russell is a great artist.
Just take opener Moon Eyes. A slow, soft and sentimental acoustic ballad, at least to begin with. It is gorgeous, embracing and lush for all its perceived simplicity. Engaging and compelling, like all good narratives. So, by the time he chooses to make his sonic mark, a short, sharp and shockingly impressive, squalling storm of sound, it is just the icing on the cake, a transitory yet powerful musical event rather than the actual point of destination.
Three more songs are found here, too. Down proves just how little a song needs adding to when you have a voice this is engaging and powerful, and What You Wrote is lovely and lilting. And there is even room for a gorgeously fragile and fractured live take on Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer. This rendition is so vulnerable and heartfelt that I defy anyone to listen to it and not catch their breath at its stark beauty.
Simon Russell is more than just a guy with a guitar. He is a narrator, a creator of atmospheres, a holder of attention, a musician who understands how to make the most out of so little, and a weaver of beautiful, dark, delicious and unique soundscapes. If you want to know how to be a compelling and creative solo singer-songwriter, Art By You is pretty much an instruction manual, and one day they will use it as a teaching aid in music schools.