It’s rare for any “new” Lester Butler or Red Devils material to be released now, more than 10 years since Butler’s passing. Which is why the 2008 DVD “Live at Moulin Blues Ospel 1998 — Lester’s Legendary Last Gig” is such a special document.
Recorded at Butler’s last gig, just a week before his untimely death, the DVD captures the harpist and his band (Alex Schultz on guitar, Eddie Clark on drums and Mike Hightower on bass) at the height of their powers, performing a stellar set at the annual blues festival in the Netherlands. That Lester looks so happy throughout the disc is a real bonus.
I’ve just picked up a copy of the DVD, though many of us have seen these performances in bootleg form. Over the next few weeks, I plan a series of reviews looking at the concert and extras:
- The final concert;
- the large photo gallery collection;
- and a remarkable three-song bonus set from the Red Devils at Moulin circa 1993.
Before even playing the disc, I read through the liner notes, which alone are worth the price of admission. With a quote from Lester’s longtime girlfriend Lori Peralta and memories from sister Ginny Tura and drummer Clark, the sleeve paints a well-rounded and rare picture of Butler. But the most surprising information comes from Alex Shultz. His reflections on the Devils and Butler are perceptive and exciting:
At the time I was playing with Rod Piazza, a very precise retro sounding outfit known for our accurate and virtuosic playing. Lester and his gang exploded every principle I thought important to a blues band, bit by bit. There was a moment of revelation when I realized they had a lot more of the magic of, say, a Howlin’ Wolf, then we in our perfection ever would; Lester and his evolving band were no “posers,” but in fact it was possible that everyone else was. …
I’m a guy that has played with a lot of harmonica players, some of the greats of our time. Lester wasn’t the technician that some of these guys were, but I began to hear and feel something from him that was deeper, that had more raw emotion in it. It was really something to do with the blues. Meantime, he was listening mostly to Snoop Dog [sic], Iggy Pop, and who knows what else.
More to come ..