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July/August 2013

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Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester Rides Again
Ace Records

Lazy LesterLazy Lester ended a nearly two decade absence from the music scene with his 1987 release, Lazy Lester Rides Again. Lester dropped off the music scene in the early 60’s/late 70’s, and moved from Louisiana, the location and source of his essential Excello Records output, to Pontiac, Michigan, where he was eventually persuaded by Fred Reif to return. He recorded the songs for ….Rides Again in England during a four-day session under the productive efforts of legendary U.K. producer Mike Vernon. The session was released in the U.K. by Blue Horizon and in the U.S. by King Snake Records.

The original release found Lester remaking several of his earlier Excello classics, including “Sugar Coated Love,” “The Same Thing Could Happen To You,” “I Hear You Knockin’,” and “Irene.” He also mixes a few new tunes as well (“Travelling Days,” Jimmy Reed’s “Can’t Stand To See You Go,” the standard, “St. Louis Blues,” and the instrumentals “Lester’s Shuffle” and “Blowin’ A Rhumba”). Considering his lengthy absence from performing, he sounds great on vocals and harmonica, and he’s backed capably by members of two U.K. bands at the time, the Junkyard Angels and Blues N’ Trouble. The whole session feels like it was relaxed and unrushed, prime requirements for an ideal Lazy Lester session.

Long out of print, Ace Records in the U.K. has recently reissued this session, adding a whopping 11 additional tracks, which consists of several alternate recordings of tunes on the album, plus two previously unreleased tracks left off the intial release (“I Ain’t Glad” and “Rockin’ With Lester”). The alternate recordings are all fine, with the occasional glitch or stumble, but otherwise sound pretty much like what ended up on the final product. Vernon adds exhaustive, and sometimes critical, notes on the session in this expanded edition. The two tracks that were left off the original release are both well-done and probably could have been left on the original with no problem.

Upon it’s initial release, Lazy Lester Rides Again won the W.C. Handy Award for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year (Foreign). From that point, Lester was able to restart his performing and recording career, cutting albums for Alligator and Antone’s in the late ’80s and ’90s, and he is still active today, when he’s not taking time off to fish. If you’re a relatively new fan of his, you might have missed ….Rides Again the first time around, so here’s a good chance to catch up on some quality Swamp Blues from a living legend.

--- Graham Clarke
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