From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “Bayou Maharajah”

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing all week.

Russell: One of the best music documentaries ever committed to celluloid, Lily Keber’s very recent and relentless masterpiece tells the tragic and hilarious story of one of the few piano geniuses of the 20th century: James Booker. He was an one-eyed gay junkie with more soul in his left pinky than half the doo-wop groups named after birds. His playing was a gumbo of Longhair, Chopin, Gershwin and Ellington, and that was just his left hand. First-time director Lily Keber masterfully unfolds this unique man’s story through interviews with those that knew him, including Harry Connick Jr. and his district-attorney father, who allowed this crazed genius access to his 13-year-old son because … New Orleans in the late ’70s, that’s why. Mixed with evocative stock footage of the Big Easy in those pungent, festive classic days, you get a colorful biography of a truly great artist that you can literally take a bite out of. And like the great American city itself, it tastes funky but goes down smooth.