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Louisiana Red & Little Victor’s Juke Joint - Back to the Black Bayou

Ruf Records GmbH / Bluestown Records

12 songs; Time 39:04; Library Quality

Styles: Chicago Blues, Modern Electric Blues, Slide Guitar Blues

When I was introduced to Texas guitar slinger Jim Suhler, my friend played “Too Poor to Die” from the “Live at Blue Cat Blues” CD, with Alan Haynes. It was an “Oh My Gawd” moment! Then, when I saw Suhler live in 2008, he opened the show with a burning version of the oft requested number.

As good as Suher can cover the song, the originator’s latest version takes the listener all the way back down home! Louisiana Red (born Iverson Minter, 1932, Bessemer, Alabama) wrote and first recorded the both humorous, poignant and recessionary apropos single for Glover Records. On “Back to the Black Bayou,” Red re-records the song in a version that will send Blues purists to heaven (if they are not too poor to die).

Re-recording and showcasing Louisiana Red on his classic songs is the essence of this new CD. Produced by Little Victor, and originally released on Bluestown Records, it was recorded at the Juke Joint Studio in Notodden, Norway, a state-of-art, old-school analog studio with a 24 track 2" tape machine, vintage RCA ribbon microphones, rare tube limiters and the original 1960s Audiotronics mixing console that once belonged to the Stax Studio in Memphis.

Little Victor has long idolized Red and has a long history of performing with Red (a resident of Germany since 1981) playing second guitar and harp. That gave Victor an inside prospective of the artist and his repertoire. Love and mutual respect between artist and producer is the cornerstone of this record. Victor carefully chose some of his favorite numbers and surrounded Red with a stellar band. Red is naturally featured on guitar and vocals, Little Victor handles guitar and harmonica, Robert Alexander Pettersen drums, and Bill Troiani plays upright bass. Special studio guests include Kim Wilson, Bob Corritore, David Maxwell, Reidar Larsen, The Hawk, Josten Forsberg, and Peter Lundell.

The results exemplify the producer's loving vision of a definitive Louisiana Red record. It is filled with Red’s deeply felt vocals, fine guitar, harp and lots of terrific, gritty, raw electric music. Red wrote all of the tunes on this one and incorporates some of his life experiences, as he has in the past. The liner notes for each song are interesting and a very welcome addition.

The Album opens deep in the gut bucket with “I’m Louisiana Red.” Minter has recorded this twice on different labels (Roulette and Atlantic), but this fresh take finds Kim Wilson’s harp in first position and top form.

Following “Alabama Train,” a signature tune of Red’s with Bob Corritore’s powerful harmonica work, a stunning 12 bar tribute to Elmore James comes on “Crime In Motion” with Red playing some blow-the-doors-off slide guitar. “Sweet Leg Girl” also shows off Red’s weeping slide on a slow blues of the finest Chicago Blues vintage.

Every song is a winner; not a throw-away in the bunch. More standouts are the rockabilly “I Came From Louisiana” with the Bo Diddley beat and the Muddy Waters instrumental tribute “At The Zanzibar.”

Having recorded more than 50 albums and best known for his song “Sweet Blood Call,” Minter came by the Blues early on when he lost his parents early in life. His mother died of pneumonia shortly after his birth, and his father was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan when he was five. He was brought up by a series of relatives in various towns and cities.

Red recorded for Chess Records in 1949, before joining the army. After leaving the army, he spent two years in the late 1950s playing with John Lee Hooker in Detroit. His first album, “Lowdown Back Porch Blues,” was recorded in New York with Tommy Tucker and released in 1963, with second album “Seventh Son” released later the same year. He maintained a busy recording and performing schedule through the 1990s, having done sessions for Chess, Checker, Atlas, Glover, Roulette, L&R and Tomato among others.

Though a product of his tutelage with some of the greatest blues artists in history (Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James and others), his music retains an individual stamp of personality, while remaining true to his teacher's lessons.

In 1983 he won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Male Artist. He has lived in Hannover, Germany since 1981, and he continues to tour, including regular returns to the US.

Ok, Blues purist whiners, put you CD purchasing money where your mouth is and get this album of ground pounding, nitro burning, real-deal Blues! You won’t find contemporary, old school blues produced and packaged with any more care, love and devotion that this one!

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL  To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE

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