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Like clockwork, once a year or so we get reacquainted with Lester Williams.

He’s like somebody with a summer home and a winter home… he has two sets of neighbors, two sets of friends, two types of seasonal activities to keep him busy the whole year round.

Much of his time is spent in the blues, albeit a rather dignified uptown club blues style where he’s generally well received.

Then every so often he gets an itch he needs to scratch and ventures back into rock ‘n’ roll, just to keep his options open going forward.

All of which makes this song’s title perhaps the most accurate one we’ve reviewed in our travels thus far.


Believe I’ll Go Back Today
To be perfectly honest, this might be one that could be slotted into the blues as well, but then blues fans invariably would respond by saying it’s more appropriate in rock.

Certainly it straddles the line, as did so much of his work, and at times that inevitably means you’re splitting hairs by what you include and what you leave out, but this one leans a little more towards rock aesthetics and considering it’s actually the A-side of an even better rock song on the flip, it’s only fair that we examine this one first and try and see what it was that caused Specialty Records to think this was the better bet for their newly signed artist.

Which of course leads into the other biographical thread here, the fact that Lester Williams has left Texas… well, maybe not literally, at least not for very long. But after his long stint with Macy’s Recordings which was deep in the heart of Texas, he switched to the Los Angeles based Specialty label… still not the independent juggernaut it’d soon become, but definitely a larger, more economically stable and nationally known company than the one he just left.

Because Williams was so consistently successful on a somewhat smaller regional scale around his home state, it’s not surprising that Specialty left him alone rather than try and actively re-shape him to reach a bigger audience. But Williams, educated at the famed New England Conservatory Of Music lest you forget, certainly didn’t need much help in analyzing the shifting music scene and making his own subtle adjustments to meet the current dominant audience halfway.

Ambiguous title aside, My Home Ain’t Here does a good job of this, blending instruments – horns, piano and his own guitar – in a way that allows each to retain their stylistic identity while not clashing with those still rooted in another field.

As always Williams, whose smooth high-pitched vocal whine makes him utterly distinct in either genre, is an affable tour guide to whatever song he comes up with.


Gonna Buy Me A Ticket
This is what you’d call a very professional arrangement. Whether it was Maxwell Davis doing the honors or somebody else, the pieces are all well chosen and assembled with the utmost care, creating an easy-going rolling rhythm with the horns gently swelling while the piano and guitar trade off mini-riffs like a friendly tennis match.

You could conceivably use such a dignified – though hardly weightless – arrangement for any number of artists and songs and have it come out sounding ideal for the material… which is why you wish that Lester Williams had written slightly better material for it.

His pliant voice has the ability to make almost anything sound inviting, even a song entitled My Home Ain’t Here where he spends most of his time trying to get someplace else to see his baby. But the problem is that while the concept is good and the main hook is fine, he’s cutting and pasting the verses from a variety of sources.

These “floating verses” don’t have any business here because they don’t fit into the narrative he’s telling us. “Gonna buy me a ticket, just as long as I am tall” is utterly pointless in this context and makes no sense once he has to include a part about a ticket. Remember that the natural conclusion for the latter part of that line winds up with someone sleeping with their head in the kitchen and their feet out in the hall.

He’s sure not doing that here which has you wonder why he bothered swiping the lead-in to that when he could’ve just as easily altered the latter half and say something about buying a ticket on the first day of fall or buying a ticket when his girlfriend placed a call or whatever the case may be, so he can conclude things by saying “Goin’ back to my hometown and have myself a natural ball”.

In other words, he had a basic premise but was almost improvising a story (the final stanza is another one lifted from other sources) and with a little more effort could’ve tightened things up, kept it sounding original rather than borrowed and in the process allowed everything else – which works well – to merely bolster the story rather than prop it up.

But even with its creative shortcomings Williams is engaging enough, and the musicians capable enough, where you tolerate the laziness of the approach, all while wishing he had just a little more self-respect when it came to putting his name to something that he picked up in the lost and found.

Catch The First Thing Smokin’
This has all of the hallmarks of a quickly conceived B-side, which is why it’s so alarming to see it serving as the A-side of Lester Williams’s first release with Specialty.

Maybe Art Rupe was unaware of the song’s tangled sources and thought the individual lines sounded really good – which of course might be why they’ve been used so many times through the years – but even if that were the case the audience is much more astute and aren’t fooled by second hand parts recycled for use in something billing itself as all new.

Ironically the result of this is that one of the things that Lester Williams has become respected for, his songwriting abilities, takes a hit right out of the gate at his new home, even as what else he’s gotten credit for – his easy going performances – is confirmed yet again on My Home Ain’t Here.

This definitely isn’t where you’d look to try and convince newcomers of the full scope of Williams’ talents, but as a purely aesthetic example of what made him sound so appealing over the years, this won’t risk losing too many converts to his overall cause.


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