In light of the recent announcement that Lester Butler’s 13 album is being rereleased by RockBeat records, we here at Nofightin.com felt it was only appropriate to take a look back at the original debut.
It was December 12th of 1996 when Hightone Records sent out info “for immediate release” on some new acts that has just been added to the roster. Included in their lineup of scheduled recordings for 1997 was 13, Lester’s first and only solo recording.
Here is what Hightone had to say:
HIGHTONE ANNOUNCES NEW SIGNINGS FOR 1997; ALBUMS DUE FROM 13 / THE SKELETONS / JULIE MILLER
OAKLAND, CA — HighTone Records, distributed by Rhino, has announced the signing of 13 (featuring Lester Butler), The Skeletons, and Julie Miller, and will release new albums by all three acts in early 1997.
13 (featuring Lester Butler) evolved from the L.A.-based group The Red Devils, who recorded albums backing Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash as well as their own critically acclaimed Live At The King King CD for American Recordings. Fueled by Butler’s incendiary vocals and harmonica work, coupled with his legendary near manic stage presence, 13’s powerhouse lineup also includes James Intveld (The Blasters) on bass, Steven Hodges (Tom Waits) on drums, Alex Schultz (The Mighty Flyers) on guitar, and Andy Kaulkin on keyboards. The band’s eponymous debut album, set for release on March 18, careens out of the speakers with a vengeance, with a nod to the gritty Chicago blues sound, but powered by a rock energy that places 13 in a league all its own. Material includes nine originals, plus covers of classic songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Big Joe Williams, and Dr. Ross.
The label was obviously pretty stoked about the whole affair, and why not? Butler was an exciting new artist, and with such a stellar lineup of accompanists on the project, how could it not promise to be anything other than outstanding?
For myself, however, such information was nonexistent. Internet marketing was nearly nonexistent in 1996, and I certainly wasn’t at the top of mailing lists for any record labels. Had I known, I would have been stoked. I would have driven the local record store clerk absolutely nuts calling to check on its arrival. As it happened, I found out about 13 when I was perusing the blues section at Best Buy one random night. The cover with its red hands and symbols stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the more standard offerings. I saw it, and I immediately got angry. “Who the hell put some Steve Vai album in the blues section?” I thought. “What is this crap?” As I sneered down at it in disgust I spied the artist’s name on the white label across the top. I stopped cold. “No … it can’t be. Is that right?” I was sure it had to be some sick coincidence, that there was some crappy metal guitarist with the same name. I just knew it. But what are you gonna do, ignore the possibility of something amazing? I picked it up and flipped it over to check the track listing. On the back was a photo of some guy playing harmonica, some guy who, though he had his hands in front of his face, was very likely Lester Butler. “YES!”
Never was I in such a hurry to get through a checkout line. The speed limit might have been bent a bit on the way home. Upon my return, I immediately stuck it in the stereo and was absolutely thrilled with what I heard. After listening to it, I began calling friends who needed to know that great new music was out there, and they needed to own it. Hopefully this rerelease by RockBeat will enable a few other people to experience that same feeling and maybe call some friends in the process. This is good stuff, and you want to you get yours before they discontinue it again and the price shoots back up to a hundred bucks a copy.