Leon Russell knows something about country music. Born in Oklahoma, virtually all of the country and blues made their way through Tulsa along with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. And while Russell is known primarily as a rock & roll performer, that doesn't mean jack. The 14 songs here offer a glimpse of where Russell's heart really lies. All classic country and bluegrass tunes, Hank Wilson's Back features Russell and a few dozen of his closest friends from both L.A. and Nashville tearing up the classics. With everyone from Melba Montgomery, Billy Byrd, Johnny Gimble, Bob Moore, Weldon Myrick, and Pete Drake to Carl Radle, David Briggs, Charlie McCoy, and fellow Okie J.J. Cale, Russell in his alter ego runs through standards such as Lester Flatt's "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Jambalaya," Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen," Hank Thompson's "Six Pack to Go," Leon Payne's "Lost Highway," George Jones' "The Window up Above," Jimmie Driftwood's "The Battle of New Orleans," and as a closer, Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene". This is no idle affair. Russell's reads of these classic songs from the country and bluegrass canon are played with fire, verve, and reverence, and he uses every trick in the book to get at the bottom of their meaning, allowing his voice to do things it never did before or since this recording. The playing is well rehearsed and stellar, and since it is played straight, the arrangements are minimal, making Cale's production job that much easier. Hank Wilson's Back is raw, immediate, and full of the kind of drunken passion that only someone who loves the country music tradition could execute. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek