Spalding Blues Club @ Red Lion, Hotel - Sun 22nd February 2004
It has always been the dream of Spalding Blues Club to bring one of the original early American blues artists to the Red Lion Hotel, last Sunday saw the fulfilment of that dream when blues legend Lazy Lester appeared as the guest of the club. Originally scheduled to appear backed members of Scottish blues band Blues'n'Trouble, illness prevented them turning up, leaving the 70 year old Lester to perform solo. That probably made the show an even more historic occasion, as the audience were treated to some authentic down home Delta blues performed by an artist who not only hails from a town near Baton Rouge deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, but one who has played with the likes of Lightnin' Slim for whom he played harmonica for and more latterly, Jimmie Vaughan (brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan) who plays on Lester's latest CD 'Blues Stop Knockin'.
Whilst a bluesman at heart some material performed in the first half would be more familiar to country music fans including songs such as Hank Williams' 'Walkin' the Floor Over You' and 'Cheatin' Heart', and an instrumental version of 'Wildwood Flower'. There was plenty for blues fans to enjoy too, including 'Blues Stop Knockin' and 'You Don't Have To Go'. For both these songs Lester invited a local musician Andrew Rawlinson to provide the harmonica work, an unexpected honour that will surely leave a lasting memory both for Andrew and those in the audience.
In addition to the wonderful unrefined sound of Lester's music, he added some humorous antidotes between songs, Lester's a bit of a philosopher too!
He opened the second half with a song entitled 'New River Train' encouraging the audience to sing along with the chorus. He soon encouraged Andrew back up to play harmonica again, and though he didn't know what he'd be playing or even be familiar with the songs, Andrew's harp work perfectly complemented Lazy Lester's guitar work and vocals, adding an authentic 'Mississippi saxophone' sound, especially effective on a song that had the themes of women and jail running through it. He also played on 'Big Boss Man'.
'Ya Ya', a song from the excellent 'Blues Stop Knockin' album featured some delicate percussion work near the end, Lester adding the percussive elements to his sound using footboards with tambourine and castanets fitted to them.
'Please Tell Me You Love Me', featuring harmonica work from Lester himself and an instrumental version of 'Jambalaya' brought a country and Cajun flavour, another instrumental piece had a ragtime feel to it whilst 'I'll Be Gone' had overtones of John Lee Hooker. Another great night at Spalding Blues Club was over all too quickly, though not before Lazy Lester had returned for two encores, the first 'Sugar Coated Love' (which was one of Lester's first hit singles) gave Andrew another opportunity to play alongside a blues legend, whilst Lester finished with 'Strange Things' before suggesting politely to the audience, "You don't have to go home, but you sure got to get the hell out of here!".