Lazy Lester

Blues Stop Knockin'

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Not the most nimble harp player on the blues block, Lazy Lester nonetheless connects when he's backed by a sympathetic band, as he is on this recording, his first in three years. Aided immensely by guitarists Jimmie Vaughen and Derek O'Brien (who also produces) on all but one track, the 70-year-old Lester returns to his swampy Excello label past on this sturdy release. Although it was recorded in Texas, Lester effortlessly evokes his Louisiana roots in a set predominantly consisting of covers that feature his moody harmonica and deep, bluesy sound. With muscular songs and a band who knows their way around a muddy groove, Lester is in fine, low-key form throughout. Far from energetic, as his moniker implies, he sounds remarkably inspired throughout. When he hits his mark on the slow blues of "Sad City Blues" (featuring guests Sue Foley, Sarah Brown, and Gene Taylor) or connects on the Jimmy Reed-ish "Miss You Like the Devi," his quivering voice and unamplified harp evoke the sound of those great '60s songs he turned into models of the genre. He even resembles Muddy Waters on "Go Ahead," gradually unwinding on a slow shuffle. Re-recording some of his old favorites, like the self-referential "They Call Me Lazy," is a questionable move for many elder musicians hoping to regain a lost spark, but these versions maintain the slow, laconic, if not quite lazy atmospheric vibe that made his classic stuff so influential. Not a great blues album, but a surprisingly good one and better than most would have expected from one of the blues' fringe figures in his waning years.

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