Written by Jim Bille

LR3Just before Leon Russell’s show started it was announced over the PA system that this was the largest crowd ever to see a performance at the Dosey Doe.

The place was indeed packed to the rafter seats as the Oklahoma icon came on stage, sat down at his piano and commenced a 90 plus minute musical retrospective of his over half century career. During the show Russell managed to cover just about every hit and note that has earned him the respect and admiration of now generations of music lovers.

The show started off with the Ray Charles number “I’ve Got A Woman” performed by Russell with a slight holy roller righteous sound that made you want to say hallelujah before it was all over.

The next number Russell played hadn’t crossed my mind in many years and I was pleased to revisit “Prince of Peace” performed live by “The Master” himself.

Russell’s engaging anecdotes between every few numbers would briefly detail past friendships and performances with musical contemporaries such as George Harrison, Bob Dylan and BB King. I’m sure he could have gone on for days reminiscing but Russell left that up to the crowd by performing just about anything Leon Russell you can imagine or maybe, like in some cases for me, had forgotten or didn’t expect to hear.

One of Russell’s early commercial successes came when he released his landmark 1972 album “Carney”. The first number featured this evening from this release was “Out in the Woods”. The second from the album was his hit “Tightrope” which was especially well received by the crowd.

DSC_7171About midway through the show the band stepped off stage and let Russell fly solo with his piano. “The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen” from Leon Russell and the Shelter People was the first of four numbers that Russell crooned for the attentive fans. “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and “Magic Mirror” was next followed by another Russell standard “A Song for You” which sparked one of the evening’s biggest ovations from the audience.

Other notable songs performed during the show included Russell’s version of the Bob Dylan classic “A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall” as well as Russell penned classics like “Hummingbird”, “Dixie Lullaby”, “Back to the Island” and one rowdy version of “Delta Lady”.

Although Russell has kept a fairly low profile over the past few decades Elton John was able to persuade him back into music by performing alongside John on a major tour along with recording the critically acclaimed duet album The Union in 2010. Since then Russell has continued to tour to much fanfare and appreciation through out the country and else where. As an added bonus of recognition by his peers Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Go check Leon Russell out and see why Elton John, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and many more icons of music still refer to him as “The Master”.