“13 featuring Lester Butler” reissue producer James Austin is obviously a big fan of the harmonica player. In a recent email Q&A with nofightin.com, Austin, vice president of A&R for RockBeat Records, talked about the project, his goals and his continuing amazement at Lester Butler.
Q: How were you brought aboard this reissue project? Were you a fan of Butler’s before you started working on this?
A: When we started RockBeat Records in November of 2010 we were looking to start with re-issuing CDs from the HighTone Records as we had access to that catalog through Richard Foos of Shout Factory. He made it possible for us to release CDs that Shout was not going to issue.
Billy Gibbons turned me on to the album “13” back in 2001. I was familiar with Lester Butler’s work with The Red Devils. I have known Dave Lee Bartel and Jonny Ray Bartel since the mid ‘80s when they were a rockabilly band. They are still good friends of mine. I knew Bill Bateman from the Blasters going back to 1979. Great guys and amazing musicians.
I noticed that “13 featuring Lester Butler” was out of print and going for 50 bucks on Amazon. We decided to add bonus tracks whenever possible on our reissues. It turned out that “13 featuring Lester Butler” was owned by Greg Lewerke (and licensed to Hightone). Greg granted us a license for the reissue.
Q: What were your goals for the project? Were you thinking remix or remaster, or any other tweaks? Were you satisfied with the outcome?
The goal was to add something to the album whereby it would reach a larger audience. Lester is an unsung hero in the world of blues. His style is very unique and I felt it was time to broaden his fan base. Being that the album was originally produced by Warren Coyle, we didn’t want to change any of his work as we respect the artistic integrity of the original recording. We merely mastered it from my original CD.
We are very satisfied with the outcome. I continue to listen to the CD and replay the bonus tracks. It blows my mind when I hear that band and how good Lester and the band were. At the Tamines Festival, Lester was on top of his game and never sounded better.
Q: How did the bonus tracks come to your attention? What story were you attempting to tell, if any, with those three live bonus cuts?
I … found a concert (being traded on the internet) from The Tamines Festival … Being that the concert was recorded during the contract period for 13, we were able to use the songs as bonus tracks.
Q: Ultimately, how would you define success for the 2011 version of “13 featuring Lester Butler”? And, now that this reissue is out, what are the chances of any more Butler material being released?
I am really pleased with how it came out and, of course I would love to release more Lester Butler with 13 and with The Red Devils. I guess we have to see how this sells first. My goal is to do other credible reissues of his material. We want to carry on his legacy. Hopefully, this CD will reach a new audience.