Devon Russell's birthplace and date are as much a mystery as the gaping holes in his recording career. The sweet swinging reggae man began with the Tartans, a mid-'60s rock steady vocal group comprised of Russell, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Linbergh "Preps" Lewis, and Cedric Myton; they disbanded after their 1967 hit "Dance All Night" (Federal Records).
He soloed from then on, interrupted only by a short stint as Cultural Roots' lead singer, with whom he waxed Money, Sex and Violence for Runn Records. His first solo album Bible and Gun was produced by Coxson Dodd for Sweet Music Records in 1982, the title track hit in Jamaica. Not exactly prolific, he recorded when the opportunity arose and when free to do so. Tamoki Wambesi Records dropped Prison Life, produced by Roy and Norma Laul Cousins; a single from it, "Jah Is Watching You," did some business. P-Vine Records (the Japanese reissue giant) issued Home Bound Train, which includes tracks by Russell. House of Reggae Records treated music fans with Darker Than Blue in 1996, a poignant tribute to Curtis Mayfield that's destined to be Devon's most successful album.
A duet with Nina Soul, "Sometimes," came out on Tamoki Wambesi; other significant singles include Mayfield's "My Woman's Love" originally the flip of the Impressions' "This Is My Country," "Thanks & Praise," "Story of the Drum," "Race Track Riot," "Jah Holds the Key" credited to Devon Russell & Zion Train, and "Three the Hard Way" with Nitty Gritty and Willie Williams. Producing credits include: Big Youth's 1978 Isaiah First Prophet of the Old album; "Happy Birthday" with Sugar Minott (a co-production with Minott); he drummed on the Mighty Diamonds' Never Get Weary (1988) album and supplied vocals to Doctor Alimantado's 1988 Privileged Few LP, most of Russell's accomplishments are uncredited and undocumented. He succumbed to a brain tumor June 18, 1997 a year after the release of Darker Than Blue. His Tartans' bud Prince Lincoln Thompson, aka "Soxs" ("Saxs" in Jamaica) expired the beginning of 1999 shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer. ~ Andrew Hamilton