BY JOHN B. MOORE
Longtime musical mercenary Leon Russell has played with everyone from Dylan to The Stones, but there is nothing like listening to him take the mic for himself.
On Life Journey, his first solo record since 2006 (The Union, his 2010 album with Elton John, may have done wonders for Russell’s career, but had a little too much Elton John for my taste), is a mix of originals and his swamp organ take on songs like “Fever,” Paul Anka’s “I Really Miss You” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Unlike many, when Russell covers a song, even one as mediocre as Billy Joel’s tourism slogan in waiting, he slathers each track with his trademark honky tonk piano and his gruff as a black bear guzzling honey vocals and makes them entirely his own.
Some of the songs here are better than others (even with more than four decades of hanging out with everyone from Willie Nelson to Keith Richards, there is only so much cred you can breathe into a Paul Anka song), but there is hardly any track here that hasn’t earned the right to stay.
Long live King Leon.
DOWNLOAD: “That Lucky Old Sun,” “Think of Me” and “Down in Dixieland”