Aaron’s review: Russ Dwarf – Wireless
RUSS DWARFS – Wireless (2013 Smoothline)
I don’t know where Aaron finds this stuff up in Owen Sound, but here is a pristine digipack CD of Russ Dwarf (of Killer Dwarf) and friends doing acoustic versions of old Killer Dwarfs classics. Wireless is a great name for such a venture, and the friends list includes Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses) and Glen Drover (ex-Megadeth). Holed up in a studio in Newmarket, Ontario they laid down some pretty cool acoustic renditions of these numbers.
“Keep the Spirit Alive” remains irresistible today in acoustic form. That’s because a good song has a lifespan. A great chorus and memorable lyrics plus a pinch of magic made “Keep the Spirit Alive” a minor hit. It’s one of the most purely enjoyable Dwarfs tunes and works well as an acoustic spirit booster. Russ can still hit all the notes. From the same album (Stand Tall, 1986) comes “Stand Tall”, which also makes the acoustic transition successfully. A pretty incredible guitar solo (it’s not clear who is playing what) ensures this isn’t just “KD Lite”.
1988’s “I’m Alive” was an upbeat morale booster in its band arrangement. Acoustically it’s the campfire version of the same thing. The musical arrangements on Wireless do not deviate very far from the originals. There are no radical re-imaginings. What makes Wireless special for fans is Russell Graham’s earnest and still strong vocals, and of course the impressive six-string slinging of Drover and Bumblefoot. The harder rock songs transition into an acoustic versions well enough, but ballads like “Doesn’t Matter” really shine. A touch of piano and a vintage Russell vocal are the perfect topping. A lot of this sounds live in the studio. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time was spent mucking around fixing things in the mix, or sweetening things up. What it sounds like, more or less, is Russ singing live in your living room.
The one thing that I did not think would work acoustically was “Comin’ Through”, the angry barnstormer from Dirty Weapons (1990). It exists acoustically as a semi-epic and righteous twister through the plains of Canada. “Crazy fuckin’ people living in the past, can’t you see that ain’t gonna last?” sings Russ with all the grit of the original. Whatever Mr. Dwarf is doing to maintain his voice…well, good on you sir! “Dirty Weapons” itself is mournful and slow rather than aggressive. Interestingly, Russ arranged this album in chronological order. The last three songs are from the final Dwarfs studio album Method to the Madness (1992). That puts a nice bow on it, serving as a reminder that the Killer Dwarfs were still writing great tunes right to the end. I can’t think of a better tune to end with than “Driftin’ Back”.
I quite liked Wireless and recommend it to any fan of the mighty mites known as Killer Dwarfs who wants to check out some quieter versions of their best material. No new songs, sadly. That would have been bitchin’.