Harp and Soul
Lazy Lester is one of the crucial artists of South Louisiana blues. His squalling harmonica and laid-back vocals created hit singles in the '50s and '60s, and his songs have been covered by everyone from Anson Funderburgh to The Kinks.
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LAZY LESTER, Harmonica & Vocals
KENNY NEAL, Guitar (on all songs), with
ROBERT "TOWN CRIER" THOMAS or
ERNIE LANCASTER or
PETE CARR, Guitar
TEO LEYASMEYER or LUCKY PETERSON, Piano
BOB GREENLEE, Bass
FLOYD MILES, or DENNY BEST, Drums
FRED REIF, Washboard
A Kingsnake Production
Produced by Bob Greenlee
Recorded at Kingsnake Studios, Sanford, FL
Engineered by Pete Carr, Andrew McIntire and Bryan Bassett
Mixed at Streeterville Studios, Chicago, IL
Mixed by Jay Shilliday
Post production co-supervised by Bruce Iglauer
Cover photos by Steve Koress
Cover design by Peter Amft, assisted by Rachel Stoler
Mastered by Tom Coyne at Frankford/Wayne, New York, NY
"Man, that fits like a saddle fits a pig." Or "I'm as hungry as a female wolf with nine pups." Or "Man, that's as hard as Chinese arithmetic."
It's the wit and wisdom of a wonder, a musician, a fisherman and (obviously) a poet. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the master of harp and soul--Lazy Lester!
Since March of 1987, the legendary Lazy Lester has been back on the road again (usually in my '82 Ford), travelling all across the United States, singing and playing that special brand of South Louisiana music called "swamp blues." It's a mixture of blues, country, cajun, rockabilly plus Lester's own Louisiana humor (Justin Wilson, look out!). Put it all together and what do you get? One hell of a down-home good time, that's what!
In town after town, his fans have brought up copies of his old 45s, his Excello album, and even an occasional 78rpm record for him to autograph. One night in Tucson, this guy gave Lester $20 for one of his harmonicas, but only after Lester had played three songs on it. Another night in Baltimore, Whoopi Goldberg showed up at the club and signed Lester's photo, "Lester, you're great!" In Austin, superfans Kim Wilson and Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds dropped by to tell Lester what a huge influence he was on their music.
The fans who are meeting Lester for the first time seem to be equally astonished by his terrific harp playing and his wacky sense of humor. In New England, he's been called "a national treasure," in New York, "the High Sheriff of Louisiana," in Atlanta "a nut," and in Austin the newspapers wrote, "he ain't lazy, he's crazy."
It's been quite a thrill travelling around with him, listening to the tales of his early days in the 1950s at Jay Miller's studio in Crowley, Louisiana. Lester can tell you who played what instrument on all his recordings, as well as most of the musicians on records by Lightning Slim, Slim Harpo, Lonesome Sundown, Silas Hogan, Guitar Gable, Katie Webster and many others. He can tell you the person who was tapping out the rhythm on a cardboard box with rolled-up newspapers, the sound Jay Miller often preferred to using a drummer. In fact, many times it was Lester himself playing the box, if he wasn't on harmonica or guitar. In the past two years, Lester's had a chance to see many of those Louisiana "studio" musicians again, including legends like Rudolph Richard, James Johnson, Roosevelt Semple, and of course Katie Webster. He's also gotten together with his old partner Raful Neal, the dean of Baton Rouge bluesmen. When Raful and Lester started out together, Raful was playing harp and Lester was on guitar, and Raful was just married and not yet a father. Now Raful has a dozen blues-playing children and grandchildren, including his son Kenny Neal, who played most of the guitar on this album.
Harp And Soul is Lester's second record since his comeback in March of '87 and he's sounding better than ever. Next time you see him, ask him to sign it for you. He'll be more than happy to do so, and he'll probably tell you, "Thanks--I needed that!"
Oh yeah...next time you see him, ask him about that big eight-pound bass he caught the day he began recording this album down in Sanford, Florida!
Fred Reif is Lazy Lester's booking agent, driver, and accompanist. He's also been responsible for bringing a number of other Michigan-based blues artists back on the national touring circuit.