Review | Leon Russell at Music City Roots

Leon Russell and band at Music City Roots.

Leon Russell and band at Music City Roots.

Few things have changed over the years for 70-year-old, multi-instrumentalist, Leon Russell. Not only do his untamed beard, long hair and enigmatic sunglasses continue to permeate his appearance, but Russell still plays with the same vigor and exuberance that has made him one of the most formidable piano players for decades. Such was the case Wednesday night, during a live-streamed performance from Music City Roots’ Loveless Café in Nashville.

Russell, alongside a handful of blues, Americana, and bluegrass groups from Tennessee, played through old hits and rearranged covers for an over 2-hour-long show; from which all proceeds benefited The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. Before tearing into “I’ll Be There If You Ever Want Me”, a track from his 1984 album, Hank Wilson’s Back! Vol. 2, Russell took a second to reminisce about the first time he heard bluegrass music, tour dates, and his upcoming new album.

“I’ve been working on a record. I cut the whole thing at my house. There’s about 12 or 13 that I cut on the computer. I played all the stuff myself and overdubbed 7 musicians at once in the studio,” Russell explained to the audience in attendance. “We got the whole thing done in a day. It was funny, one of the guys turned and looked at me and said, ‘I get 12 songs done in one day with Leon Russell and now I’ll go to play with James Taylor and get one song done in 12 days.’”

Beyond a few words between songs, Russell had the audience on their feet and singing along to mainstream hits, “Footprints in the Snow”, and “You Are My Sunshine”, a track originally performed with Willie Nelson.

Be sure to check out IROCKE for more live streamed shows from Music City Roots.