Monday, August 16, 2010

Muddy and Elmore's Music echoes in "Louisiana Red Sings The Blues"

I have long owned the LP, “Louisiana Red Sings The Blues,” in its original Atco release. Recently the 2007 Wounded Bird reissue of it  was available on sale at a cut-rate price from Blue Beat Music and I included it in my most recent order from them. At the time this was recorded, Louisiana Red was a fixture on the New York City blues scene, though then as now, not receiving the acclaim or enjoying the remuneration he deserves. Born Iverson Minter, he was raised in New Orleans and then later in Pittsburgh by relatives. His music, then and now, shows considerable influences from Muddy Waters, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and was reflected in his recordings. The first Red sides I heard included one “Gonna Play My Guitar,” as by Rocky or Playboy Fuller, where playing fierce slide guitar in the vein of Muddy Waters he lays down a challenge to the late king of Chicago Blues. Recordings for various small labels led to a modest hit with “Red’s Dream,” and imaginative reworking of Big Bill Broonzy’s “I Had a Dream.” This led to an album, “Louisiana Red’s Low-Down Back Porch Blues.”

The present album was recorded a couple of years later and had Red backed by a variety of New York area musicians, including Bill Dicey on harmonica, Tommy Tucker on piano (and drums for one track), Robert Banks on keyboards, Don Cook on piano and Leonard Gaskin on bass. Musically, its solid Chicago styled blues as shown on covers of Muddy waters’ Rollin’ Stone,” “The Same Thing,” and “Louisiana Blues,” where Red sings and plays in a manner to satisfy Muddy’s admirers. “I Am Louisiana Red” and “I come from behind the sun,” is a solid performance using the “You Don’t Love Me,” although the rhythm section is a bit ragged. “Country Playboy,” has some ragged band work behind Red’s forceful singing. “The Story of Louisiana Red,” has an autobiographical lyric starting from his harrowing childhood (his father was murdered by the Klan or a similar racist gang) and set to the “It Hurts Me Too” melody. “Some Day,” is a somewhat messy take on a James Brown groove, but Red’s “Dust My Broom,” variant, “Freight Train to Ride,” is a solid rocking performance with strong slide guitar. “Red’s New Dream,” is a bit fantastical with him dreaming on Mars and the head man on Mars wanting to know whether he should take a rocket to Earth with Red started nibbling a chitlin’ before letting the Martian taste a pig foot and collard greens which and some humorous jive about Uncle Sam coming to Mars and tax the craters. Its a fun lyric, although a bit incoherent compared to the earlier "Red's Dream."

Red has continued to record extensively these past few decades. He penned a number of very personal, moving songs and has a number of albums, some of them excellent. He has recorded a number of excellent albums for Blue Labor (I believe they have been reissued), Earwig and Ruf. “Louisiana Red Sings The Blues” is a solid recording that may be hardly essential, but holds up over the years. It may be worth checking to see if this is still available at a bargain sales price.

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