Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Right On Red!

Louisiana Red
& Little Victor's
Juke Joint
Back to the Black

Bluestown Records

The term "the real deal" has been tossed around within the blues genre maybe a bit too much. I've used it probably more than I should have in my description of this musician or that musician, but sometimes the shoe just absolutely fits. Iverson Minter, who is best known as Louisiana Red, began earning the right to that term back in 1949 after recording his first tunes. Since then he has generated more than 50 albums of blues according to Red. Maybe legendary would even be fitting and since we are losing legendary real deal blues musicians at an alarming rate recently (Mel Brown, Lester 'Maddog' Davenport, Snooks Eaglin, Willie King, Eddie Bo are just a few within the past month that have left us), it is good to see that Louisiana Red is still out there giving us what he's got.

Anyone familiar with the Louisiana Red story knows it to be a story of the blues--real life blues. His mama died with he was only a week old, his daddy was hung by the KKK when he was around 7 years old, he was passed around by relatives and state homes and if you know his music then you know that his story finds its way into his songs--such as on the autobiographical I'm Louisiana Red from this new release, Back To The Black Bayou. Red's fans know that he's told this same tale on other releases and he also re-visits Ride On Red, Ride On where he relates his tales of civil rights abuses insisting that makes his home above the Mason Dixon Line. If you venture over to his website, he has a video of one of my favorite blues rockers from the seventies (back when blues rock was easier to come by than Louisiana Red), Irishman Rory Gallagher, doing an acoustic version in 1984. Those not familiar with Red's take on the blues will discover that he puts such a personal spin on each song that leaves the undoubtable impression that his songs aren't fiction.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have to confess that I saw that Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore were featured guests and figured that there would be a few harp licks thrown in around Red, so I just had to check it out on iTunes and I couldn't leave without the entire download--darn, I hate it when that happens. No, what I hate, once more, is lack of liner notes. I have a pretty good idea of which songs Kim Wilson is playing on, for example: there is no doubt that it is KW's classic moves around the harp on the instrumental, At the Zanzibar. It is one heck of a slashing, dashing piece of shuffling blues with Red's slide ripping it up, which is just one thing that he does--play the bottleneck slide really well, electric or acoustic. A great example is his Crime in Motion , which sounds like the re-incarnation of Elmore James, instrumentally and vocally as he shouts a plea for someone to please call the law for that woman laying out there in the raw--whoa! Dave Maxwell's ensemble piano riffs really puts it on the lowdown.

I just have to do way too much work trying to find out who's doing what when I let iTunes suck me into the snare. I did find out that the Bluestown Record label is Norwegian and that it was recorded over there and produced by Little Victor and that it will be released in the states by Ruf Records in April. Little Victor McOggi appears to be quite a player in the blues world and has gained a lot of credibility in the industry and Little Victor's Juke Joint shares title credits with Red here. I'll leave this myspace site for those interested in checking him out a bit more. It seems that it's his band that is backing Red up on this studio release and that he plays guitar and harmonica and the notes that I found about this release also lists Josten Forsberg with the harmonica credits also. So--aside from the intrumental with Kim Wilson (and I'll go out on a limb and say that it's his 3 hole draws that are swirling around that autobiographical tune aforementioned) and even though I've heard a bunch of Bob Corritore because he is really getting around lately, I'm not going to venture a guess as exactly who is doing what on the tunes that feature the blues harp (7 of the 12 cuts). Let me just say that all the harp playing is well done. Mostly in the pocket in support of Red with very little soloing, but it is all solid and fat toned stuff.

As with the Elmore James' vibe mentioned above, much of his sound is informed by those seminal recordings by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf or John Lee Hooker (whom he played with). That's simply blues tradition, as he takes what sounds like Muddy Water's Trouble No More for a ride, except that Red's lyrics make it an entirely different animal called You Done Quit Me. Muddy himself took it from Sleepy John Estes' Someday Baby and twisted it to fit him and changed the words a bit. Louisiana Red came up during the same period of time in which everyone borrowed from everyone else's hit songs. Red's lyrics always weave unique narratives such as on Too Por To Die (maybe a Norwegian take on spelling poor or maybe Red's) which recalls his dream of dying and not being able to afford to be laid to rest. Dream tunes have cropped up on a number of his earlier works. He also seems to always include a train tune--here he has a couple. One about getting back home on an Alabama Train, which has some heavy harp by the way, and out of the East Coast cities. The other is Don't Miss That Train which has a rockabilly vibe and has the gospel flavor of This Train.
Red's opening guitar licks make me wish that I'd stuck with the instruments back when I was thirteen and Ride On Red Ride On has the same flavor as does I Come From Louisiana on which Red sounds like he's singing through a harp mic. He's mic'ed up vocally the same way for the ominous The Black Bayou that gets down with some of the intensity Muddy got going when those two trains were running.

So it really doesn't matter if his Roamin' Stranger sounds a bit like Hooker's rootin' groundhog or not, Red will have you believing he invented it all or at least that he lived it all. Louisiana Red is one of the few Real Deals we have left out there, so maybe we'd listen to his story. Anyway--'nuff for now.9395475134


Texharp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Texharp said...

Sorry last post had a typo and it bugged me. Take two.....
Great review you've talked me into finding this album and throwing some money at it. In your opinion, which I have found so far to be spot on when it comes to blues, who is your pick as the best around?

Ricky Bush said...

Hey Blue--
If you just getting into the blues bag, then go back to the source. For blues in general my choices would begin with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. If it's blues harp, go with Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II (and I), Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells and James Cotton. Listen to what these guys are laying down and they'll lead you the current players who learned from them. Of course, you can always go back deeper in time and listen to those that influenced Muddy and the Wolf, like Robert Johnson, Son House and Charley Patton.

It's hard to beat Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin, Rod Piazza, or RJ Mischo as far as those that you can catch playing today. I have hundreds of blues recordings, so this is off the top of my head. Anyway--

Miss Aloha said...

If you are lucky enough to have a copy of the actual cd, the liner notes for Back to the Black Bayou leave you in no doubt as to who is playing on which track..yes it is Kim Wilson on Harmonic on the first track.

Ricky Bush said...

Hey Miss Aloha--

Thanks for confirming my guess. No, I don't have the CD and that's my biggest complaint in regards to iTunes. Not everyone cares who's playing what intruments, but I do and I'm left in the dark with those digital downloads. Normally, I hold out and buy the CD, but just the instant gratification of snaggin' those snippets of modern technology are hard to resist. Anyway--Thanks again.