I'm amazed that no one has reviewed this one by now - it's been out a long time. The album is a classic containing virtually all the numbers that Lazy Lester (actually Leslie Johnson) recorded while he was with Excello, the label which is mainly famed for its focus on Louisiana swamp blues music - a few more did eventually creep out on the third of Ace's compilations of Excello swamp blues, the Genuine Excello R&B album.
It's tempting to draw comparisons between the Chess electric blues recordings from Chicago in the `50's and `60's and the output from the Excello recording studio in Crowley, Louisiana in the same time frame. In any such comparison Lester has to equate to Little Walter - he both backed, on mouth harp, one of the biggest names in the Excello castlist, Lightnin' Slim - and did that very effectively - and simultaneously pursued a solo career in his own right. Unlike Walter whose recording unit didn't vary very much., from the discography included here, Lester's backing team varied quite widely - this may in part account for some of the sonic differences in his numbers (but it certainly didn't reduce the quality).
I've always very much liked Little W and see him as somewhat underrated in the Chess stable. However based on the evidence on this album I'd put Lester at the same level. In comparison to his label mates, Lester may not have the intensity of Lightnin' Slim or Lonesome Sundown but he more than compensates by the variety of his material and his approaches to it. With most of the other main artists from that stable - Lightnin', Slim Harpo and Silas Hogan are key examples - once you'd heard the first few bars of a number you knew how the rest would go. That was never the case with Lester.
His two most famous numbers, "I'm a lover not a fighter" and "Sugar coated Love" appear right at the beginning. Both are rockers, delivered superbly, and both have, not surprisingly, attracted cover versions - the Fabulous Thunderbirds' version of the latter number is probably the most well known of them. Whilst most of the following tracks don't quite have the impact of these two, every one of these tracks holds its own and more than justifies its presence. The default track is the medium tempo blues shuffle but with several slow blues plus a few more speedy ones. A few of the slowies hint at a swamp pop sound - and intriguingly both Warren Storm on drums and Guitar Gable (on guitar of course!), both swamp pop performers for Excello , often appear in the accompanists - however I wouldn't suggest these are more than hints and it`s mainly the mood, nothing else. That said, the penultimate track "Take me in your arms", has a chordal pattern like Jimmy Reed's "Honest I do", which to some, is a sort of blues equivalent to swamp pop. Anyway this is a digression, what matters is that Lester's music is a significant part of that overall very broad church of Louisiana music.
Lester's voice is distinctive, having elements of the laid back Louisiana accent but able to adapt to the faster numbers which often need more attack, and the slow ones where a more thoughtful style is required. His harmonica playing is way up there with anyone both on these solo numbers plus the many, many records he made with the likes of Lonesome Sundown and Lightnin' Slim - the latter's records in particular would not have been anything like as memorable without Lester.
In terms of backing I should also mention Katie Webster on piano who more than decorates many of the tracks on this album, as does her organ which appears on several.
It's good to report that, although Lazy Lester effectively disappeared for many years, he did pick up on recording and performing in the 80's. Great to know that one great blues man is still with us.