All Over You

Lazy Lester

Antone's / Sire Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/09/1999

The following paragraph is not the kind of thing a publicist is going to want to see in the start of a review. When I first heard Lazy Lester as the blues coordinator of the campus radio station, I was hardly impressed. Granted, I was still very much in the process of "getting my feet wet" in the blues, but what I heard on his then-recent release Harp And Soul (which I rescued from the production studio) didn't impress me. Needless to say, Lester didn't get a lot of play on my show, unless I had already played too much B.B. King.

Flash forward a decade, when one of the publicists I work with informed me that Lester had a new album, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 All Over You, coming out. My first comment was, "He's still around?" This was followed by, "Yeah, go ahead and send it." Despite my previous experience, I was willing to give him another chance.

It's interesting to note that this is Lester's first album since Harp And Soul - and it was a major eye-opener for me as a fan of the blues. While Lester is not the strongest vocalist in the business, he delivers the blues with a down-home comfort level that he makes this album very approachable on many levels.

Lester is best known as a harmonica player, and he shows his skills on the harp early and often. Tracks like "I Need Money," "Strange Things Happen" (which sounds a little like Randy Newman at times) and "Irene" all seem to mix in touches of old-fashioned R&B with the blues. This creates a unique sound for Lester, and it's one that suits his style of the blues very well.

But what surprised me about All Over You is that Lester also shows skills on the guitar; he is the sole performer on two tracks, "Nothing But The Devil" and "My Home Is A Prison". The latter track is a modern testament to the old-style performance of the blues, where the strict 12-bar formula wasn't always followed. While I would have called something like that sloppy in 1989, since discovering the joy of the late Robert Johnson, I can now appreciate these deviances from the standard.

Lester keeps things interesting through songs like "I'm A Lover Not A Fighter," "The Sun Is Shining" and "Hello Mary Lee," all making people like myself wonder why he's only released three albums in the last 12 years. Lester could easily be one of the best artists in the traditional blues style, though I still believe that Harp And Soul (which I haven't heard since leaving radio in 1991) didn't do him justice.

All Over You is one of the finest traditional blues albums I've listened to in a long time, and it should cement Lester's importance to the world of the blues. It's well worth the time to search this one out and listen to it.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Antone's / Sire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.