It’s an all-too-familiar story, with a couple twists. Promising young major-label artist gets dropped, his band (here, the Freewheelers) breaks up, and a couple solo indie releases later, the guy wonders what happened to his career and regroups.
In Luther Russell’s case, add on top of that a tough divorce. So he moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles. There, shopping one day, he ran into an old pal, producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Jayhawks, etc.), who urged Russell to make a record with him. They collaborated on what ranks as the best work of Russell’s career, the start-to-finish quality song cycle you keep waiting for Paul Westerberg or Ryan Adams to release.
Repair is full of relatively unadorned pop gems chronicling the search for where a relationship got lost and how to pick up the pieces. Russell’s vocals have never felt this assured nor have his words rang this true. The raw honesty, without any hint of mawkishness or false melancholy, resonates.
Two tracks in particular stand out. “Lightning Strikes” is a moving ballad that out of nowhere delivers a walloping finish with giant chiming guitar chords and an irresistible chorus. And “Everybody Falls” is perfect in every way, the pop hit the major label A&R geeks probably complained Russell never wrote for them, with a great vocal hook: “I guess everybody falls in love/Everybody falls in love/Everybody falls in love/Except for you.”