Friday, August 10, 2012

Lazy Lester in London

One of the last of the Excello bluesmen, Lazy Lester, has spent the last 30 years or so touring incessantly in the States and Europe. I must have seen him dozens of times over the years. Now aged 79, he ended his latest UK tour in the intimate surroundings of the Thomas Guy Club near London Bridge, ably supported by Little George Sueref, in a gig promoted by Keith Woods of Tales From The Woods fame.
Lester showed that vocally he still has what it takes, with idiosyncratic takes on a range of blues and country numbers and alternating with George to play either guitar or harmonica. Some of his numbers were old blues and country favourities, while others were from his new album You Better Listen, recorded in Norway. Originally from Louisiana, Lester lived in Michigan for 30 years and now lives in California, but to judge by his sometimes hard to decipher Southern drawl, he never left home. He remains incredibly laid back - the characteristic that earned him his nickname from Jay Miller - but obviously enjoys his work.
After an opening guitar instrumental he turned to his harp for That's All Right, following it up with If You Don't Want Me Baby. He moved into country territory with the Merle Haggard song Take Me Back Home Before I Die and then sang Made Up My Mind before I slipped to the bar to watch Usain Bolt win the 200 metres, thus missing a couple of numbers. Back in my seat (one of only about 20 in the venue) he introduced his new album and one of the tracks on it, the country song Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain.
After a break, during which Lester joined us in the 'watering hole' as he called it, he did a couple of Jimmy Reed numbers - Baby What You Want Me To Do and Big Boss Man - and then moved through Strange Things Happen Every Day, You Better Listen and the instrumental Paradise Stomp (both from his new album) and some more country with Your Cheating Heart. There was an annoying hum at times, but George and Lester worked smoothly together, despite much fiddling around between numbers while Lester adjusted his guitar and George searched for the correct harp - 'neighbourhood of G' in several instances. Other numbers in the second half included You Don't Have To Go, the sad My Home Is A Prison, Blues Stop Knocking At My Door, Real Combination For Love and Almost Persuaded.
Lazy Lester has played with many of the Excello greats, including Lightnin' Slim and  Slim Harpo, and recorded some great Excello numbers of his own, yet he seems reluctant to do his best known tracks I'm A Lover Not A Fighter and Sugar Coated Love, which is a shame. Nevertheless he was and still is, a talented bluesman with a style all his own and this was an enjoyable show.


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