Lazy Lester (real name Leslie Johnson), along with Lightnin' Slim, Slim Harpo, Silas Hogan, Lonesome Sundown, and a few others, is a prime example of what's generally called "swamp-blues". Produced by Jay Miller for the Excello label, Lester's music is a cross of blues, country, early r'n'r, with a smidgen of the Louisiana area style all mixed together. These tracks float somewhere between 3 and 4 "stars". The sound is surprisingly good. The booklet is informative as far as it goes. All in all--a good presentation of Lester's music.
This good collection spans the years 1958-1964--the prime era for Lester's music. His vocals and harp (with his occasional guitar playing) made his music fairly unique. His bands were almost always rudimentary--just basic guitar/bass/drums (or cardboard box), with Lester's lazy vocals and sinewy harp out front. Once in a while he added a piano, an organ, or maybe a tenor sax into the mix--to good effect. Most of his bandmates were unknown except in their area, with the exception of Katie Webster (piano/organ), Guitar Gable (guitar), Warren Storm (drums), and possibly Carol Fran (piano), all who later would become relatively known to blues fans.
Lester's harp style lent itself to both up tempo and slower tunes--both his own singles/albums, and on songs recorded by Lightnin' Slim (most notably) and other area artists. Lester went on to record albums under his own name before his death--notably for the Alligator label. His vocals could be described as workmanlike/laid-back, but along with his harp playing everything seemed to fit together into a unique, visceral, sloppy sound found only in that area and era. Listen to his early 50's tracks like "Sugar Coated Love", "Lester's Stomp", "Tell Me Pretty Baby", and "Whoa Now" (with Sammy Drake playing a cardboard box)--all great examples of Lester's style. And his 60's recordings were just as great and worthwhile hearing--"If You Think I've Lost You", "Lonesome Highway Blues", or "You're Gonna Ruin Me Baby" all are Lester at his best. But also check out the tune "Bloodstains On The Wall" from 1960. Besides the atmospheric overdubbed harp, listen to the lyrics.
For whatever reason, Lester and (with the exception of Slim Harpo) the above mentioned artists never garnered much attention or fame from blues fans. If you're reading this you're probably familiar with Lester and the other Excello artists. But if his name (and the others) is new to you, you should do yourself a favor and give these musicians a listen. Both individually and taken together, they're an important piece (like Clifton Chenier's Zydeco Band) of the blues genre. The laid back, almost sloppy approach is in contrast (for example) to the harder sounding Texas/Chicago big city blues, with it's declamatory vocals and incendiary guitar work from the same period. The music is at times raw, plain, and seemingly thrown together yet straightforward--with the barest of instrumentation adding greatly to the sound. Don't let those attributes (yes, attributes) throw you off hearing some fine late 50's/early 60's "swamp-blues" from Jay Miller/Excello Records.