From stellar 60s session mainstay and high profile bandleader for the likes of Joe Cocker and George Harrison, to last year’s highly successful reunion with Elton John, Leon Russell has proved himself as both invaluable right-hand man and solo artist in his own right. Meanwhile, Willie Nelson is the rock of outlaw country music, a baked and gritty campaigner against that genre’s syrup-coated mainstream, always up for a collaboration over his 50 year recording career.
The pair got together in 1979 to record an album called One For The Road, which extended to a joint TV special presenting its songs, hardy standards and items from their respective illustrious catalogues, kicking off with a boisterous rendition of Heartbreak Hotel. The grizzled duo, plus guests Maria Muldaur and Bonnie Raitt, are mainly shown in soft focus head-and-shoulders close-up, introducing songs with short solo narratives, having a good old time (and, in the Stetson-crowned Russell’s case, providing an unintentionally hilarious moment by gazing into the camera for several seconds then faltering under the weight of his eyelids).
At just under an hour with no extras, it’s a compact little exercise, the highlight being a heady duet on Sinatra-linked standard One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).