No tags :(

Share it




Yep… this is precisely what we’ve been waiting for and it’s not at all surprising that this is when we’re getting it.

Earlier this year Lester Williams had his best selling record in awhile, and while not a national hit the commercial returns were unambiguous… his rocking sides were now paying off more than his bluesy efforts.

Naturally, this being the record industry, if something works you do it again and while normally we might rail against that kind of thinking, especially if it results in an endless string of carbon-copies of the first record, when it comes to making a broader stylistic decision between two opposing forces he’d previously been equally drawn towards, we’ll tolerate any similarities to an earlier record if it means he’ll start focusing more consistently on rock ‘n’ roll.

This one not only fully embraces rock’s dominant sounds but in the process it doesn’t attempt to rip-off his biggest sides in that field. So while any sign he was becoming more aligned with rock was indeed what we’d been waiting for, this result is even more than we could’ve hoped for.


Ooh… That So And So
Within the confines of pure rock ‘n’ roll, stylistic differences are not only permissible, but welcomed. If every song was an uptempo raver then it’d get a little tiresome dancing around the room for hours on end, which is why ballads are used to balance that out with slower tempos, more romantic topics and a greater variance in the emotions being tapped into by the singers.

But when you have an artist like Lester Williams, a guitarist who grew up around the blues in Texas, the usual differences between fast and slow songs take on a different element not found as often in other areas of the country, or with artists who had another set of outside influences when they were coming of age.

Williams’ slow songs tended to focus more on deeper themes and used his guitar for the instrumental accompaniment, bringing the dormant blues elements to the surface which naturally appealed to a different audience that preferred the rock songs like Brand New Baby and in those cases we’d be the ones who’d get frustrated when he stepped outside that realm to target someone other than us.

Years down the lines this wouldn’t be as much of an issue for an up and coming act, as by next decade blues had settled into being a much smaller niche market without much chance for huge crossover hits. From that point forward, aside from a handful of lingering big-name acts, the best selling blues single would struggle to match even a moderately selling rock release.

Then it made much more sense for an artist who could conceivably succeed in either market to almost forsake the blues altogether and focus entirely on rock because it’d pay off much more regularly… not only more sales, but more options for good-paying live gigs.

That was not the case in the early 1950’s however when the blues market is just as healthy as the rock market, which meant for guys like Lester Williams it paid to keep your genre affiliation open to interpretation.

But when the sales for one start overwhelming the sales for the other, as it had lately with him, that’s when your loyalties began to shift.


Satisfy My Soul
To be honest the opening horn riff doesn’t quite fulfill the expectations we may have led you to assume was a foregone conclusion when it came to how much this side rocks.

Not that it’s too sleepy, or excessively dated or anything, it’s got a good groove to it and leads into the song just fine. But they’re laying back in their intensity just enough to have you question their commitment, especially with their checkered past when it comes to such things.

In years gone by we’d say certain horn sections were revealing their jazz roots too much with their arrangements or excessive brass in the personnel, but nowadays rock’s DNA has been fully absorbed and we don’t get much of that. What we do get from time to time though is a a more easy-going swing to certain riffs rather than having them played with driving force and sure enough here they’re patting you on the back instead of slugging you in the jaw and so naturally we’re a bit worried… but only for a moment.

For once Lester Williams starts singing your fears subside. The horns naturally are going to take a back seat now and though he too might be a less forceful vocalist than is generally recommended thanks to his tonal qualities, he knows full well how to balance the melodic qualities with the rhythmic necessities to compensate for his nasal whine.

That’s when Brand New Baby sounds like a brand new song… like a 1953 car rolling off the assembly line… one a little more streamlined than older models with some added chrome. The horns now settle into a supporting role, their churning groove not expected to carry the weight of the record, but adding to it all the same. The sax solos – two trade off midway through – raise the stakes, for even as they display some sophistication they do so without sacrificing their edgy qualities.

With the beat never relenting behind him, Williams gives us perhaps his most dynamic and engaging lead to date. Though we’ve come to accept that his voice itself will never roughen up, he makes the most of the equipment he’s got with a sly, smirking and often salacious vocal performance here, skirting the edge of indecency in subtle clever ways – “she’s always in position (dramatic pause) to come whenever I call”. Feel free to choose whichever half of that line you want to alert the censors about, then watch as they tie themselves in knots trying to prove it.

He’s singing with such infectiousness that you can’t help but smile along with him as he flaunts his excitement with these kinds of insinuations, giving everybody involved the feeling like they’re getting away with something deviant. So by the time he starts using the word “baby” with as many different inflections as he can think of, you can sit back with pride knowing he’s learned every lesson needed in order to graduate to full-fledged rocker at last.


Really On The Ball
When it comes to assessing Lester Williams to date, it’s fair to say that while he may be something of an atypical rock act because of his long flirtation with the blues, when it comes to his rock output he’s been more or less an average artist so far. The ratings we hand out confirm this too, as he ended up with a 5.33 average score for his first dozen sides reviewed on the site, showing that he can be counted on to deliver something perfectly acceptable but rarely exceptional.

So if an artist comes up with a song that touches the bright green numbers around here during a stretch like that, as Williams did with I Can’t Lose With The Stuff I Use, it’s normally just an outlier, the absolute peak of their potential, and more often than not their subsequent releases will find them settling back into their more middling comfort zone. Perfectly acceptable output, but nothing that has you thinking they may have another level to consistently reach.

With Brand New Baby however, Lester Williams confirms his earlier high point was no fluke and proves that he’s more than capable of surpassing our previous assessment of him if he puts his mind to it.

There’s no guarantee he’ll do it of course, and it might even be a little unfair to expect that he will, but at the very least we should no longer be surprised if – and when – he does from now on.


(Visit the Artist page of Lester Williams for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)