“BROTHER BILL” EP by Sean Russell to be released this Holiday season on Hand Drawn Records
Originally recorded in 2012, Cut Throat Finches’ lead singer/songwriter, Sean Russell, to release Gospel and Christmas-themed record in memory of pastor and friend, “Brother” Bill Russell
ABOUT “BROTHER BILL”
-Words by Sean Russell, Photos by Honey Russell-
In 2012, “Brother Bill” (Bill Russell), passed away after 27 years of service to the homeless community at the Union Gospel Mission on Lancaster Street near downtown Fort Worth and in that same year I decided to record this album for him.
Bill was described in the New York Times best-selling book “Same Kind of Different As Me” by author, Ron Hall, as being a “Santa Claus like figure” and “a fire and brimstone baptist preacher.” Absolutely true, but I would add; that Bill was also legally blind, which was notable as he had to practically memorize the entire Bible to give his nightly sermons. But to me, Bill’s most important legacy, was not just that he preached nearly every day of those 27 years as an unpaid volunteer, but how he ended each service by shaking each of his congregation’s hands as they waited in line for food, with a kind, “God Bless you, Jesus loves you, and I love you”.
Sean Russell circa 2012
After I lost my job in 2007- about the same time Ron Hall’s book was being finished – I began volunteering at Union Gospel Mission thinking I would gain perspective against the mounting fears of losing my “things”. So, I started playing Gospel music at Bill’s request, at the beginning and end of Bill’s sermons. “Tonight” became a favorite among the guests and residents. It was not a song about them, but about the things within myself that I didn’t like.
“Sinking Sand” (remake of Solid Rock), “Ain’t No Grave” and “Amazing Grace” were all Gospel favorites of Bill’s which I reworked to make my own. But, “Hallelujah, I’m Giving In” is unique, as it is the only original, written when I was having trouble connecting with the spirit of Christmas, unsure if I would lose my house and family. And in writing “Hallelujah…” I was given hope for the future in deciding to act how you want to feel, rather than acting how you feel now.
Those hard times are now behind me, but Brother Bill’s story is one I will always carry with me. Bill was an integral part in helping me get through those troubled times, and I know I am not alone in that sentiment.
This record is for him and for all of those lives he touched throughout his blessed life here on Earth.
In the studio: Singer/songwriter, Sean Russell
In the studio: Guitarist, singer, Taylor Tatsch
“BROTHER” BILL RUSSELL (1941-2013)
“Brother Bill Russell, 72, went to be with the Lord on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2013. Brother Bill was born June 23, 1941, in Waco. He was a servant of Jesus Christ for 42 years, a pastor and senior minister at Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County for 27 years. Survivors: Wife of 53 years, Janet Russell; five daughters; one son; 16 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; four sisters; and three brothers.” –Star-Telegram (Dec. 7, 2013)