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13 years later: Another look at “13 featuring Lester Butler”

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2010 by J.J.

“When you’re talking about blues, you’re talking
about storytelling. … You have to bring something to the table.
You have to have a story to tell.”

13 years ago tonight, Lester Butler and his gang took the stage at the Bar Deluxe in Hollywood to celebrate the release of the album “13 featuring Lester Butler.” [*]

Fans of The Red Devils’ “King King” were in for a surprise with this new disc: While “King King” was raw, buzzy and live, “13” was sharp and edgy. “King King” was a tight ensemble record; “13” sounded like a blues band riot. “King King” relied on classic blues shuffles; “13” pushed the envelope into punk, rock, boogie, R&B and jam. “King King” celebrated women, cars and booze; “13” was a junkie travelogue, documenting the seedy side of life as seen by Butler in the five years since The Red Devils’ triumphs.

For all their differences, “13” and “King King” still go hand-in-hand; if you love one, you probably love the other.

But 13 was a mission statement by Butler, with one foot firmly in blues and the other somewhere in space. Distribution on the small independent blues and roots label Hightone seemingly gave Butler carte blanche to follow his muse (check out the psychedelic cyber-tarot nightmare album cover and confusing labeling for proof).

The album he crafted is filled with tales of chaos, desperation and regret, the music stripped raw in the studio — simple, pounding drums; barrelhouse piano; snaky, funky guitar; and Butler’s vocals in front, the singer damn near ingesting the mic and screaming in your ear.
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Photos: Red Devils’ last King King gig, 1993

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2009 by J.J.

Red Devils at the King King

Walk up to the door, and pay the cover — it’s Monday night at the King King club in Hollywood, and The Red Devils are on stage.

1kingkingFor those of us who missed it the first time around, these photos of the Devils at the King King, taken by Vince Jordan, are a great find. Jordan owned and booked the Blue Cafe in Long Beach, Calif., from 1992 to 2003. The club was another favorite haunt of The Red Devils and related bands; Jordan and Lester Butler were also good friends (he and his club get a thanks on the “13” disc).

Jordan said these photos were taken at the Devils’ last gig at the King King, probably June 14, 1993 (that was a Monday). The timing as a “last gig” makes sense; Paul Size would be out of the band later that summer, and the original King King would close shop for good by the end of the year.

7kingking_rubinBesides the great photos of the band and the scene, check out an ultra-rare photo of producer Rick Rubin and Butler hanging out on a bench outside the club (as seen on the “King King” album cover), as well as a couple with original Blue Shadows/Red Devils guitarist — as well as former Blasters and 13 member — Smokey Hormel sitting in.

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