Local Wire

Leon Russell

With his dangling white tresses, wispy white beard, stiff-rimmed white Stetson, and tailored, double-breasted white suit, music legend Leon Russell cuts a distinctly angelic figure. One can almost imagine him cast in another Here Comes Mr. Jordan/Heaven Can Wait remake, playing a honky-tonk cherub who dispatches the mistakenly deceased Robert Montgomery/Warren Beatty character back to Earth. To be sure, it's a good look for the onetime Phil Spector session man who rose from the seminal Tulsa country-blues-rock scene to become of the industry's most productive and versatile talents. Before finding success as a solo artist in the '70s, Russell played piano for the likes of B.B. King and Bob Dylan, founded his own record label, and wrote arguably the prettiest song ever: "Superstar," first covered by The Carpenters and, then, by everyone from Luther Vandross to Sonic Youth. Vocally, the 67-year-old Russell will never be mistaken for a golden-throat like Willie Nelson (with whom he collaborated on the number one country duet "Heartbreak Hotel"), but his rickety pipes give hits like "Tight Rope" and "Lady Blue" a certain strained beauty. If there's a rock Heaven, Russell already has his wings.
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Craig Outhier