Thursday, March 01, 2012

Lousiana Red Is Here And Gone

Word of the death of Louisiana Red certainly has affected the blues world. Born Iverson Minter, he led a lengthy and distinguished career marked by numerous fine recordings over the years starting sixty years ago for Chess Records and running through the excellent Memphis Mojo that I reviewed this past October. Back in 1995, Red was making one of his regular US tours at the time that Michael Frank issued this fine recording, Sittin’ Here Wonderin’ that I reviewed for the DC Blues Calendar and Jazz and Blues Report (November 1995- Issue 206). At the time, he did a US tour and the DC Blues Society presented Red with Carey Bell at Tornado Alley, a defunct Washington DC area club. Backstage, Archie Edwards joined Red to remember the good times in the past, and Red returned a slide Archie gave him years earlier. It was a wonderful night of blues and there were more to come at clubs and festivals worldwide. The last time I saw him perform was at the 2008 Ponderosa Stomp.Long may Louisiana Red’s music ride on.

A resident of Europe for over a decade, Louisiana Red’s brief US tours and festival appearances of the last couple of years were certainly deservedly anticipated. He has made several recordings overseas in recent years, including some fine duets with harp player Carey Bell. Earwig has issued Sittin’ Here Wonderin’ that makes available some solo recordings he made in Phoenix, Arizona in 1982, shortly before he moved to Europe.

Red is heard in forceful solo performances with strong echoes of Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker being evident. After Muddy Waters’ death, Eric Clapton made a comment about how no one played guitar like Muddy. Not true, as Red was one of several artists who could, and did, play slide in Muddy’s vein. Early in his career as Rocky Fuller, he recorded a 45, I’m Gonna Play My Guitar, where he menacingly threatens Waters with his violent, distorted slide. There are several tracks here where his amplified slide recalls Waters, although Red uses Waters’ music as frames for his own blue stories. So one hears echoes of Waters’ Long Distance Call and Standing Around Crying on Red’s violent sounding Stella Blues and Pittsburgh Blues, while I’m Lonesome echoes Muddy’s Rolling Stone.

The opening E Street Bridge and Sadie Lee are suggestive of John Lee Hooker’s early recordings, with their chugging rhythms and repeated bass figures punctuated by repeated single note runs The closing Prison Blues #1 adds some piercing slide to the Hooker flavored backing. Back Door Friend, attributed to Jimmy Rogers but dating back to Tony Hollins (and also recorded by Lightning Hopkins), shows the variety of Red’s repertoire and influences.

The forcefulness of Red’s guitar and vocals helps put his own stamp on this set of blues songs that may be suggestive of several legends, but at the same time are compelling personal examples of the down home blues art.

I believe I received a review copy from  Earwig Records. Here is the late Louisiana Red from you tube.

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