Beale Street Music Festival 2010
Just a few of the notable places Russell's finger prints may be found are on the Beach Boy's Pet Sounds (Captiol, 1966), Glen Campbell's Gentle on My Mind (Capitol, 1967), Joe Cocker's Joe Cocker! (A&M, 1969) and Mad Dogs and Englishmen (A&M, 1970), the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed (London, 1969), B.B.King's Indianola Mississippi Seeds (MCA, 1970), The Flying Burrito Brothers' Burrito Deluxe (Edsel, 1970), The Concert for Bangledesh (Capitol, 1971), are you beginning to get the idea? Russell, more or less quietly shaped music during the 1970's with his Midwestern soulful vision.
This much experience has left Russell with a lot of important friends and a repertoire that cuts a mile-wide swath across American music. Not only is his songbook packed with his own compositions now considered rock standards, his covers represent a body of interpreted music surpassed only by his associate Joe Cocker. Russell took the Blues Tent stage with his quintet, guitarists Chris Simmons and Beau Charron, bassist Jack Wessel, and drummer Brandon Holder and launched into an abbreviate "Jumpin' Jack Flash" coupled with "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." As far as openers go, it was most exciting, if a bit scripted. Russell, dressed in light pants and floral shirt, signature cowboy hat and sunglasses, came out and took control from the get go.
Russell's physical appearance is as dramatic today as it was at the Concert for Bangledesh, if not more so. His long mane and beard have long since gone white, giving him a sepia-toned aura of substantialness. At the end of his life, Johnny Cash was often cast as an Old Testament Prophet who has seen all and been alllikewise for Russell. If John Cash is the firey, wild-haired Elijah, warning all of certain due, then Russell is the mystical, windblown Ezekiel divining dreams and explicating harbingersThe Master of Space and Time.
Russell and his band swiftly (but with no haste) gave definition to American Popular Music since 1930. After the opener, Russell navigated the introduction of "Paint It Black" directly into "Kansas City." "Sweet Little Angel," "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," "Wild Horses," and "I've Just Seen A Face,"all covers that have been part of his concerts for years. But it was not all covers. Russell peppered the performance with many of his own compositions. "Back To The Island," "Hummingbird," "Lady Blue," "Delta Lady," all made appearances. But it was not all Russell, either. Guitarist Chris Simmons gave a bracing solo spin on Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues" that blew like a quiet hurricane through the hot Memphis Night. Russell then took a solo"A Song For You."
Russell has been at this a long time as evidenced by the sleek, streamlined, no-frills show. He is the complete professional and business man, still touring long after he no longer needed to and still acting as a vibrant muse in music. Russell closed his show with "Stranger in a Strange Land"Do you recognize the bells of truth / When you hear them ring / Won't you stop and listen / To the children sing...