Om Leon Russell
Leon Russell is one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. Though he was wont to cover songs, particularly by Bob Dylan (on Leon Russell & the Shelter People) and Hank Williams (on Hank Wilson's Back), he also handed out many a cover song himself. Joe Cocker trademarks "The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and "Delta Lady" were Russell songs, and so was Helen Reddy's "Bluebird." Born in Oklahoma, Russell served a tour of duty at the famous Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama, where he soaked in the flavors of R&B, Swamp Pop, and southern Soul. As a result, Russell seems to evoke a dream South where races harmonize and the longhaired stranger is welcome at every table. Though there's more gravel in his voice than you'll find on a mile stretch of railroad, there is a plain sweetness here, too, especially on songs such as "Delta Lady" and "Lady Blue." It's a four-hour drive from Beale St. to Bourbon St., but pick up a Russell record and you can cut your travel time to a few minutes.