Louisiana Red – Back To The Black Bayou

Blues & Rhythm
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Washington Blues Society Newsletter

Washington Blues Society Newsletter (June 2010)

Back to the Black Bayou was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the Traditional Blues Album of the Year, and Louisiana Red received a nomination in the Traditional Blues Male artist category. Along with Louisiana Red-guitar, vocals and Little Victor-producer, guitar and harp, are a host of guest musicians with Jorstein Forsberg, Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore on harp, and 2010 Blues Music Award recipient Dave Maxwell on piano. With songs this good, one doesn’t really stand out much from the rest. I could easily write something about every track. Red adds some wicked Elmore-style slide to “Crime In Motion” and his slide work on “Sweet Leg Girl” is pure Muddy Waters, on which Jorstein plays a mean harp. Speaking of mean harp, Little Victor plays on Hoochie Coochie-flavored “Too poor To Die”, and again on one of my favorite tracks “Roamin’ Stranger”. In a very bluesman-style, Red only enunciates about half of the words in each refrain in his honey with gravel in it vocals. Kim Wilson blazes on the opening track “I’m Louisiana Red”. In my notes I only wrote serious blues w/ excellent harp – well, that pretty much sums it up. Kim is back for the final cut “At The Zanzibar”, a harp and slide tour de force. As Little Victor wrote in his track notes, “Red is playing tribute to Muddy; I’m playing the best Jimmy Rogers stuff I can play; and Kim Wilson (as Little Walter) just kills this one.” I couldn’t put it better. I haven’t even touched on Bob or Dave’s contributions; but believe me, they are every bit as good or better yet. Get a copy of Back to the Black Bayou. You will be glad that you did.

– Malcolm Kennedy

Blogcritics (February 22, 2010)

Louisiana Red (born Iverson Minter) had a busy year. The 77-year old bluesman recorded two albums, both in contention for some serious hardware at the 2010 Blues Music Awards. For Back To The Blue Bayou, he teamed with Little Victor and a host of other musicians and their effort is one of five nominees for Album of the Year.

Little Victor rounded up some crack musicians and booked time in a studio that designed to take everything we’ve learned about capturing sound and ignoring most of it for this project. The facility they used in Norway includes the ’60s Auditronics mixing console formerly housed in Memphis’ Stax Studio where some timeless records were born. Of course you could team Jacknife Lee (On A Pogo Stick) and the legion of Hell responsible for those awful Lady GaGa records with Louisiana Red, put them in a state-of-the-art studio, and the record will still be gritty and hard. The levels would suck and the mastering would be way too damn loud proving nothing is foolproof, but all the studio tricks designed to smooth and perfect and homogenize can’t silence greatness. The medium used to capture the sound is irrelevant because indomitable authenticity flows through Red’s music, poured straight from his soul.

Back To The Black Bayou opens with “I’m Louisiana Red.” He’s recorded this theme song of sorts several times throughout his career. Re-recording old songs can be a recipe for disaster, giving the impression the well has run dry. This performance is no retread, though, as Red sounds as vital as ever and Little Victor and harp ace Kim Wilson crackle. Red’s delivery might be off-putting to modern listeners like Nick Jonas, accustomed to auto-tuned singers and other studio enhancements, but it comes from a pure place so deep in the soul it can’t be seen, only experienced.

“You Done Quit Me” was done in one take. Listening to it, it’s hard to imagine why they’d have gone for a second. It’s possible there’s something they could have improved but damned if I can figure out what. There’s a distinct “On The Road Again” vibe at the heart of this one (Canned Heat, not Willie Nelson). Bill Troiani walks that upright bass and Bob Corritone — another blues harp veteran who guests on the record — smokes, playing some dirty, underworld sounds. Those of Red and Little Victor create great racket as their guitar lines clang and rattle against one another.

Red howls “Crime in Motion” and shuffles over a killer performance of the rhythm section of Troiani and Alex Pettersen on “Ride On Red, Ride On.” The rhythm section, complemented by the piano of David Maxwell, gives “Alabama Train” an almost Santana-esque Latin shake. That mystical spirit found in the music of Santana is underscored by Corritone’s spooky harp and some great guitar interplay between Red and Victor.

The instrumental interplay and the ambiance created by the vintage recording approach are fantastic and they add to the enjoyment of the record, but they make up the nucleus. It’s his voice, his cadence, and the reservoir of spirit and soul, and the way he taps into it never sounding like he’s going to run out, but giving so much you can’t imagine there could be any more. This isn’t Chicago blues, Memphis blues, Texas blues, soul blues, or jump blues. These are Louisiana Red blues and while he played with and learned from many blues masters throughout his career, there is no blues school or style that teaches what he does. I have one week left to finalize my BMA ballot and I’m still torn on who will get my Album Of The Year nod. Back To The Black Bayou will be damn difficult to pass up.

– Josh Hathaway

MonstersAndCritics.de (Germany) (December 5, 2009)

Er ließ sich mit herausragenden Produktionen immer mal wieder viel Zeit. Ebenso auch diesmal. Gut Ding braucht eben Weile – die Weile hat das Ende erreicht und darf sich nun ausruhen. Mit „Back To The Black Bayou“ hat Louisiana Red einen großen Wurf gelandet. Guter alter Blues wie zu besten Zeiten. Innovativ gepolte Bluesliebhaber sollten lieber die Finger von dieser Produktion lassen, denn es gibt lediglich Altbewährtes für die Ohren. Doch das kann sich mehr als hören lassen. Back To The Roots vom Feinsten. Nur Mut!

Iverson Minter, alias Louisiana Red, in Session-Laune. “Back To The Black Bayou” wurde Ende Juli Anfang August 2008 im Rahmen des weltberühmten norwegischen „International Notodden Blues Festival“ aufgenommen. Die Blueslegende in Höchstform. Aber auch die Musiker an seiner Seite zeigen Spiellaune pur. Eine breite Welle an Energie und gemeinsamer Inspiration versprühen sie bei den tollen Aufnahmen.

Louisiana Red verwandelt sich bei den Sessions in einen jungen Burschen. Mit Leidenschaft und Freude taucht er tief in seine Songs ein. Mit jedem der intensiven, passionierten Songs weckt er Erinnerungen an die goldene Zeit des klassischen Blues, aber auch des frühen Rock`n´Roll der 50er und 60er Jahre.

Auf „Back To The Black Bayou“ präsentiert sich Louisiana Red in erstklassiger Manier. Ausgeschlafen und aufgeweckt, ungehobelt aber ausgefuchst, intensiv und ausgeprägt, sich den Wurzeln des Blues hingebend. Die besondere Umgebung und die tolle Atmosphäre des Festivals inspirierten alle Beteiligten. Grenzenloser Blues in Höchstform.

An seiner Seite – äußerst wertvolle Musiker: Little Victor (Guitar), Robert Alexander Pettersen (Drums), William „Bill“ Troiani (Bass), Kim Wilson, Bob Corritore und Jostein Forsberg (Harp), Dave Maxwell und Reidar Larsen (Piano) und Peter Lundell (Percussions).

– Rainer Molz

Downbeat (October 2009)

Raised on 1950′ Chicago blues with a mentor named Muddy Waters, Red perseveres as one of the last of the guys still able to wed conviction to technique and get over on more than nostalgia. Joined in a Norwegian studio by a band fronted by Euro-American guitarist Little Victor and by American visitors like harmonica men Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore, he revisits songs he recorded decades ago with a rough- and-tumble vigor that celebrates, not pulverizes, the human spirit. Listen for the two guitar interplay.

– Frank-John Hadley

Blues.About.com (August 27, 2009)

Although Louisiana Red has played many of these songs hundreds, if not thousands of times onstage, and has recorded some of them several times, with Back to the Black Bayou he imbues each performance with a vibrancy and raw energy one wouldn’t think achievable. In the capable hands of producer and fellow bluesman Little Victor, who captures Red’s essence perfectly on these cuts, the blues veteran has found a musical foil and sympathetic ear that helps him deliver one of the better recordings of a career that has lasted better than a half-century. If you prefer the flame-singed, ragged edges of mud-crusted, Delta-styled blues, look no further thanBack to the Black Bayou. (Ruf Records, released March 10, 2009)

– Reverend Keith

Rocktimes.de (Germany) (July 4, 2009)

Mit seiner Biografie ist Louisiana Red prädestiniert für das, was üblicherweise als ‘authentisch’, ‘Original’ oder ‘legend’ bezeichnet wird. Geboren wurde er 1932 im tiefsten US-Süden, früh verwaist, der Vater wurde vom Klu Klux Klan ermordet. Ein entsprechend trauriges Kindheitsschicksal, das später auch noch seine leidensvolle Fortsetzung fand. Wenn das keine Voraussetzungen für einen ‘echten’ Bluesmann sind, was dann?

Er wurde einer, ging nach Chicago, spielte mit allen bekannten und einer Menge unbekannteren Größen, trat schon 1975 in Montreux auf und kam mit dem American Folk Blues Festival nach Deutschland, wo er hängen blieb und seither zunächst in Nürnberg, später dann in Norddeutschland lebt. Er bekam 1983 einen W.C. Handy Award als bester traditioneller Musiker und pflegt seinen erdigen Stil bis heute. Aber trotz aller Reputation, diversen wohlbeachteten Comebacks in seiner Heimat und kaum mehr zu zählenden Gigs in Europa – zu einem der wirklich (anerkannt) Großen des Blues hat es irgendwie nicht gelangt (dass er sich selbst als ‘Gigant’ auf seiner Homepage bezeichnet, ist vielleicht eine Art Trotzreaktion).

Mittlerweile ist er auch in Skandinavien zuhause, tritt dort öfters bei Festivals auf und hat seine jüngste Platte in Norwegen mit der dortigen Band Little Victor’s Juke Joint eingespielt. Little Victor hat das Album im eigenen Studio produziert, wozu ein Haufen ‘vintagemäßiges’-Equipment samt Aufnahmetricks eingesetzt wurden und entsprechend ‘downhome’ klingt das auch.

Gleich vornweg gesagt, Louisiana Red kann’s noch immer, Back to The Black Bayou ist ein mehr als ordentliches Blues-Album geworden, das sich unter den aktuellen Scheiben der jüngeren Generation durchaus behaupten kann. Wir hören ihn mit seiner grummeligen Stimme, die zwar nicht mehr so fest wie früher ist, aber immer noch in die höheren Lagen kommt und dieses ‘klassische’ Timbre mit Feeling aufweist. Und natürlich mit seiner herausragenden (elektrischen) Gitarrenarbeit, vorzugsweise mit dem Bottleneck. Typisch ‘Old School’ (haben wir jetzt alle Klischees beieinander?), aber keineswegs altmodisch. Für einen 76-jährigen lässt er sogar sehr beachtlich die Muskeln spielen. In den Seniorenklassen gewinnt er damit sicher ein paar Preise.

Louisiana Red und seine toughe Truppe spielen vorzugsweise einen sehr hippen Chicago-Blues, der wirklich abgeht. Daran haben auch die Gäste ihren gehörigen Anteil. Für diese Produktion wurden bereits bekannte LR-Nummern neu arrangiert. In der ersten bläst Kim Wilson seine geschätzte Harp, Bob Corritore ist auf “Alabama Train” keinen Deut schlechter. Bei “Crime in Motion” lässt Red seine Gitarre in Elmore James-Manier jaulen, der einen großer Einfluss auf ihn hatte. Die Piano-Arbeit von Dave Maxwell passt hervorragend dazu. The Hawk liefert beim altbekannten “Ride On Red” ein schönes Gitarrenbrett ab. “Sweet Leg Girl” ist der erste Slow Blues, ein schweres Kaliber à la Howlin’ Wolf und gibt einen weiteren Beweis für Reds exzellente Slide-Kunst. Mit The Black Bayou legt er gleich nach, diesmal geht’s allerdings hinunter ins Delta, zu den catfishes im muddy water.

Das gern benutzte “Wanna Make Love To You”-Thema wird in “Too Poor to Die” aufgewärmt. Dass Red auch eine gute Figur als Gospel-Shouter macht, hören wir im puristischen “Don’t Miss That Train”. Dafür werden bei “You Done Quit Me” wieder die dicken Eisen ausgepackt, ein untertouriger Chicago-Shuffle bei dem Red sogar jodelt. “I Come From Louisiana” ist ein weiterer autobiografischer Bluesrocker aus seiner frühen Zeit bei Roulette Records, der richtig abgeht. Zurück ins Delta führt “Roamin’ Stranger” im Stil Robert Johnsons mit diesmal einem ebenfalls großartigen Harp-Spieler Little Victor. “At The Zanzibar” ist der krönende Abschluss der Sessions, ein röhrender Instrumental-Boogie, erneut mit Kim Wilson und der Band (Rhythmussektion: Robert Alexander Pettersen – drums, William Troiani – upright bass) in Hochform.

Back To The Black Bayou ist ‘vintage’ durch und durch – der Blues der 50/60er Jahre, nochmals glänzend vorgestellt von einem der wirklich letzten Großmeister der Generation, die wir (neben B.B. King) noch live erleben können. Aber keine tränige Nostalgie, sondern kochend heiß neu aufbereitet. Sogar so getrimmt, dass diese 2009er Scheibe mit ihrem dumpfen Sound kaum von den alten zu unterscheiden ist. Und das ist eigentlich zuviel der Authentizität, fehlt nur, dass noch ein paar Knackser und Kratzer hinzugemischt worden wären…

Nichts Neues, aber sehr vital, der alte Herr Blues.

– Norbert Neugebauer

Blues Blast (June 18, 2009)

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 Suhler 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 plays 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 gutbucket 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 throwaway in the bunch. More standouts are the rockabilly “I Come 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 your 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 than this one!

– James “Skyy Dobro” Walker

Blues & Rhythm #240 (June 2009)

Now I’d heard some nice things about this one – it was originally released on Bluestown but had limited distribution, so now German label Ruf has picked it up for the international audience. The opening track certainly bears out the critics’ opinions with a big Chicago styled sound, wailing harp from Kim Wilson behind a cooking little band including bassist Billy Troiani (known to some from is work with Eddie Kirkland) and Red’s impassioned vocal on a mighty fine remake of an early hit. Of course, this then continues into ‘Alabama Train’, with the same basic but totally effective sound and production. Bob Corritore this time wailing away wonderfully on harp, hot, percolating backing – and then it’s the same kind of raw, direct blues right throughout the set. Yep, it’s a winner OK.

Up until relatively recently, Red suffered from a surfeit of releases. He doesn’t just sing the blues, he lives his life through it; he’ll play any time, anywhere – or all the time, everywhere – and so it has been relatively easy for a multitude of labels to assemble an album. To be fair though, most are, at the very least, listenable, and some are more than that. Partly this is because Red generally works either in a classic Chicago vein – very much in the style of ‘Poppa Muddy Waters’ as Red frequently calls him, though a couple of numbers here also carry echoes of the Louisiana swamp-blues sound of Lightnin’ Slim and Slim Harpo – so that it is relatively easy to get a band to follow him, or solo.

Producer and guitarist/harmonica player Little Victor has assembled a top-notch band – as the names Corritore and Wilson should demonstrate – and the result is one of Red’s best albums, despite the short playing time (for a CD anyway – it would be fine on vinyl). Yes, some of it is derivative but when you have learned from the best, there is no harm in using the lessons you have picked up. There is the expected slashing slide guitar work – try “Crime In Motion” for a good example – but note too that Red is in wonderful form vocally throughout the entire set. Remakes like “Ride On, Red, Ride On” reference the originals just enough to make the tracks familiar but different enough to make listening a real pleasure. That comment could actually cover the whole album. The tracks are short and to the point, there are none of the excesses associated with modern blues, and the result is one of Red’s very best sets since his Atco album way back when.

– Norman Darwen

BluesSource.com (May 26, 2009)

Louisiana Red hits a button every time he sets out to make a recording. With his deep Mississippi blues guitar, raspy vocals and his no bull approach to the blues the old fashion way, he stands the test of time as a true blues icon. This new CD out by Red is loaded not only with incredible blues, but also a great guest lineup. Literally every song was either written or co- written by Red, whose real name is Iverson Minter. Recorded at the infamous Juke Joint Studio in Norway, the projects producer Little Victor also plays his guitar on these tracks side lining Red with a sound that’s a little different than Red playing on a solo basis. Besides Red’s actual band, there is a stellar array of great musicians who were there to help add the following touches to the project. Kim Wilson, Bob Corritore & Jostein Forsberg all take turns on the harmonica, while David Maxwell & Reidar Larsen help out on piano. Peter Lundell dabbles in percussion and The Hawk also plays guitar here. Besides Little Victor & of course Red, there is Robert Alexander Pettersen on drums & William “Bill” Troiani on upright bass.

The liner notes also have a little short write up by Victor about each song.

A total of twelve deep blue tracks make up the CD, in Reds natural style of melancholy, yet heavy rooted, right to the point blues. Take the opener for instance; Red has recorded this twice on different labels, but this version of “I’m Louisiana Red” is a fresh take on the song with Kim Wilson’s harp topping off the cake. A tribute to Elmore James comes on “Crime In Motion”, with Red playing some serious slide guitar. “The Black Bayou” has a hearty hill country sound in the same manner as Muddy’s hit “Rolling Stone”. A gospel flavor is heard on “Don’t Miss That Train”, electrifying the tune with a steely effect. Red adapts the moans and howls of one of his mentors Howlin Wolf on the track “You Don’t Quit Me”, and on “Roamin’ Stranger”, Victor puts the guitar down to play harp as well. The last track has them all trying to fill the shoes of Muddy and the Chess boys on “At The Zanzibar”, which is where Muddy took Red when he first arrived in Chicago in the 1950’s. You cannot go wrong when you purchase a Louisiana Red CD. When you do, you’ll know you have found the blues.

– Dirk Wissbaum

Blues.pl (Poland) (May 5, 2009)

Na dobra plyte sklada sie kilka elementów. Po pierwsze sprawni muzycy. Tych na „Back To The Black Bayou” nie brakuje. W orkiestrze, która stoi za plecami Louisiany Reda graja m.in. powazany na skandynawskiej scenie bluesowej gitarzysta Little Victor, bedacy jednoczesnie producentem albumu, a takze Kim Wilson, David Maxwell i Bob Corritore. Po drugie dobre piosenki. Tych Redowi nigdy nie mozna bylo odmówic. Jedne tworzyli dla niego utalentowani teksciarze pokroju Kenta Coopera, inne pisal sam i tych na nowej plycie jest najwiecej. Po trzecie brzmienie, które wyróznia sie z tlumu podobnych do siebie produkcji. Tu uklony wedruja do producenta, który zebral muzyków w norweskim Juke Joint Studio bogatym w kilka milych dla bluesmana gadzetów… Dwudziestoczterosladowa maszyne nagrywajaca dzwiek na stara dwucalowa tasme, lampowe mikrofony RCA dumnie noszace miano „vintage” i pochodzaca z lat szescdziesiatych konsolete mikserska, której swego czasu uzywala wytwórnia Stax i z pomoca której powstaly klasyczne plyty takich gwiazd jak Booker T. & The MG’s, Otis Redding, Albert King czy Aretha Franklin. Tyle tytulem wstepu. Meritum jest proste – niemiecki Ruf przygotowal dla bluesfanów nie lada gratke, bez dwóch zdan jedna z najlepszych plyt, jakie Louisiana Red do tej pory wydal. Calosc zaczyna sie autobiograficznym „I’m Louisiana Red”, który doskonale wprowadza w klimat longplay’a. Nie jest za szybko, nie jest za wolno, ale z pewnoscia jest intensywnie. Chwile pózniej, gdy w „Alabama Train” Bob Corritore zastepuje Kima Wilsona, robi sie jeszcze gorecej. Bardzo ciekawie wypadaja te utwory, które Red zwykl wykonywac solo – „Crime In Motion” z rozedrgana gitara slide i krzykliwym wokalem, a takze najlepszy bodaj przyklad jego specyficznej poetyki, „To Poor To Die”. Jesli ktos sadzil, ze Iverson Minter, bo takie jest jego prawdziwe nazwisko, swoje najlepsze lata ma dawno za soba, po tej plycie albo zmieni zdanie, albo gleboko sie nad tym zastanowi. Gdy wszystko wokól brzmi nowoczesnie i „mainstreamowo” warto wrócic do korzeni. A na tych Red i koledzy znaja sie jak malo kto.

– Przemek Draheim

Blues In The South (UK) (May 5, 2009)

The brainchild of producer Little Victor, Iverson Minter’s songs are given a new immediacy that reflects a unique touch developed under the tutelage of Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Elmore James. You’ll hear the spirit of all of them here and also the unique voice of Minter AKA Louisiana Red backed by a stellar cast of backing musicians. Years later tunes like “I’m Louisiana Red” would resurface as “Willie The Pimp” etc. Elmore James’ influence can be heard on songs such as the stunning 12 bar “Crime in Motion” with Minter playing the slide guitar. Added to the mix is some “feel-good” country blues “Ride On Red, Ride On” with Little Victor on lead guitar and the slow Chicago blues “Sweet Leg Girl”. The melody to the swampy title track is borrowed from “Catfish Blues” while the tune to “You Done Quit Me” was picked up on by Cyril Davies on “Someday Baby”, a groove that may well have preceded and succeeded Louisiana Red! Much care has gone into this project including the reconstruction of Minter’s songs with, in some cases, bass lines becoming guitar parts and the empathy shown by the musicians on upright bass, harp and piano makes Back to the Black Bayou the most authentic and exciting blues adventure for a long time! There are too many high points to list but just a few more- the lyric of “Too Poor To Die”, the rockabilly “I Came From Louisiana” with the Bo Diddley beat and the Muddy Waters tribute “At The Zanzibar”. Back to the Black Bayou is absolutely indispensable for all lovers of the blues.

– Phil Jackson

Bluesbreeker.nl (Netherlands) (April 29, 2009)

Het heeft ruim vier jaar geduurd alvorens er weer wat nieuws kwam van Louisiana Red. Maar het wachten heeft de moeite geloond. Met Back To The Black Bayou pakt de ijzervreter uit Alabama sterk uit. Met medewerking van o.a.: Kim Wilson, Bob Corritore en The Hawk is de cd opgenomen in Noorwegen onder productie van Little Victor. Daarbij heeft hij geput uit eigen werk aangevuld met totaal nieuw materiaal en een traditional.

Dat Louisiana Red een nogal bewogen leven achter de rug heeft en daarin nogal wat heeft meegemaakt vindt je terug in zijn werk. Luister maar eens naar het door hem en Henry Glover geschreven: “Too Poor To Die”. Enkele songs grijpen je naar je strot terwijl andere songs je kunnen opbeuren.

De opening met “I’m Louisiana Red”, een al wat oudere song van hem die al op meerdere releases staat, is nog nooit zo sterk uitgevoerd als nu. Hierop verleent Kim Wilson op de bluesharp zijn medewerking. De wijze waarop Louisiana Red slide speelt is onmiskenbaar te horen op onder meer “Crime in Motion” en “Sweet Leg Girl”, geen wonder dat hij tot een van de grotere op dit gebied wordt gerekend. Dat geldt overigens ook voor de titeltrack “Back To The Black Bayou” waarop hij de Mississippi sound op gitaar vet laat doorkomen.

De enige traditional die hij heeft opgenomen is de door hem bewerkte “Don’t Miss That Train” met een licht uptempo ritme voert hij je mee terug in de tijd.

Louisiana Red behoort inmiddels tot de groten der groten in de blues en misschien wel een van de laatste van de oude garde. Met “At The Zanzibar” brengt hij een ode aan een andere grote en tevens zijn vriend Muddy Waters. Hiermee speelde hij in de vijftiger jaren in de Zanzibar Club samen met Little Walter en Jimmy Rogers. In dit nummer neemt Kim Wilson de taken van Little Walter waar en Louisiana Red doet dat met Jimmy Rogers.Back To The Black Bayou is een uitstekende cd die in mijn ogen tot een van de betere van 2009 zal gaan behoren. Ongetwijfeld zal deze cd genomineerd worden voor een of andere blues award en dat is dan zondermeer verdiend.

Ruf Records is het label waar Back To The Black op is uitgebracht.

Juke Joint Soul (April 15, 2009)

Outside of B.B. King, Pinetop Perkins, and Honeyboy Edwards, Louisiana Red is one of the last artists I can think of that are still living and active that recorded during the Forties. He made his early recordings for the Chess Brothers, and also did work with John Lee Hooker in the fifties in Detroit. He’s recorded for dozens of labels and dozens of albums. Living in Germany since 1981, Red makes frequent visits back to the U.S. on festival circuits and tours. This is Red’s first studio album since 2005, and his first with an actual band in several years. Released in Germany in 2008, Ruf took ownership of U.S. Distribution for this Bluestown Records release. The album includes guest harmonica players Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore, along with several top German players.

At its core, this album marches to the beat of Louisiana Red’s left foot, voice, and slide guitar. At first listen for the inattentive ear, some might find that the band is having a hard time following Red’s swampy, almost Delta styling of rhythm. However, it is perpetual, and eventually things fall into place. For traditional blues fans, it’s right on time. Red writes every song on the short, economical disc that is deep, traditional swamp blues. Many of the songs are deeply personal and often autobiographical, detailing some of Red’s early life as an orphan when his mother died at a young age, and his father being murdered by the KKK. Red’s time-wearied voice is sometimes a little garbled, but is very fitting for this often dark and brooding tales, especially with songs like “Too Poor to Die”. Most of the songs here run around the three-minute mark, showing Red’s economical use of time and spacing. He’s basically showing us all how the old guys used to do it – get in, get out, say what you need to say, and hit ’em hard.

Red hits this one right between the eyes. For the weak at heart or for the non-traditional fans, this one might be a little bit too much to take. However, indie rockers who’ve come to the blues will find appeal in Red’s unapologetic authenticity and approach to music and emotion. Oh, and his slide still packs a very stinging punch. It’s a sonic boom when he puts steel to string. Special kudos go to the liner notes as Bob Corritore gives a splendid intro to Red, and the story behind these sessions. The notes also give a track by track, play by play for all the audiophiles out there. If you want raw, unabashed, unforgiving lyrics, and ominous, deep-feeling blues, go down to Red’s Black Bayou, and you’ll come back full.

– Ben the Harpman

Rootstime.be (Belgium) (April 2009)

Iverson Minter heeft nog eens een nieuwe cd gemaakt. Wie is Iverson Minter hoor ik je vragen, wel als ik zeg Louisiana Red heeft wat nieuws gemaakt, zullen meer mensen weten over wie het gaat. Red werd bijgestaan door de artiest die wellicht ook zijn grootste fan is: Little Victor, aka “The Beale Street Bopper”. Inderdaad, Little Victor leerde het vak op deze bekende straat in Memphis. Lousiana Red daarentegen is echter niet afkomstig van de staat die zijn naam laat vermoeden. Hij is afkomstig uit Alabama, en was voorbestemd om de blues te zingen. Als je moeder sterft kort na je geboorte en je vader gelyncht wordt door de Klu-Klux Klan, als je nog maar negen bent, dan is er namelijk nog bitter weinig plaats voor een gelukkige jeugd. Zijn naam kreeg hij gewoon omdat hij gek was op een soort tabascosausje dat die naam droeg. Zo scherp als dat sausje wel smaken zal klinkt ook deze Back To The Black Bayou. Zijn eerste opnames, begin jaren vijftig, verschenen op het legendarische Chess Label, en zodoende kwam Red in contact met onder meer John Lee Hooker, die hem rechtstreeks de kneepjes van het bluesvak leerde. Muddy Waters, Lightnin Hopkins en Elmore James deden hetzelfde, en als je in die kringen vertoeft hebt, mag je jezelf trots tot de “echte” en bovendien een van de weinige nog in leven zijnde legendes van de blues tellen. Helemaal niet verwonderlijk dus dat de grote namen van de huidige blues als het ware staan te dringen om als gast mee te mogen spelen. Hier zijn dat onder andere Kim Wilson, Bob Corritore en Jostein Forsberg op harp, de fantastische Dave Maxwell op piano en The Hawk en Little Victor op gitaar, die ook de productie deed en zorgvuldig de songs uitkoos. Songs die behoren tot zijn favorieten in het repertoire van Red. Het wederzijds respect is hoorbaar in deze opnames, en de gasten voegen net dat beetje extra toe aan de songs, die steunen op de dubbele gitareninteractie tussen Red en Little Victor. Het resultaat is wat we simpelweg als een echte, “pure” bluesplaat kunnen bestempelen zoals enkel artiesten als een Louisiana Red die nog kunnen maken, artiesten die de wortels van de blues nog in zich dragen en verder geven. Momenteel woont Red in Europa, in Duitsland meer bepaald. De opnames voor deze cd werden in het Noorse Notodden gemaakt, een stad met naam in de blueswereld, omdat daar jaarlijks het bekende bluesfestival plaatsheeft. De “Juke Joint studios”, die bovendien bekend zijn omdat er nog analoog, of volledig “vintage” opgenomen wordt, met apparatuur die gedeeltelijk nog stamt uit de Chess en Stax studios. Dus is dit mede daardoor, een super traditioneel blues album geworden, maar allesbehalve saai of voorspelbaar, daar zorgen die heerlijke stem van Red, zijn gitaar, aangevuld door Little Victor’s licks en de vakkundige bijstand van zijn gasten wel voor. Het mooi verzorgde inlay boekje met voor ieder nummer een verhaaltje van Red bij elke song krijgen we er extra bovenop.

– Ron

Blues Bytes (March 27, 2009)

Louisiana Red has to be one of the most prolific recording artists since John Lee Hooker. He’s recorded for Atlantic, Roulette, Tomato, L + R, JSP, Earwig, Severn, HighTone, Red Lightnin’, and over a dozen other labels since the early 1960’s. This time around, he’s on Bluestown (via Ruf Records) with a great album recorded in Norway at Juke Joint Studios in Norway, called Back To The Black Bayou.

I’m not sure what the bayou situation is in Norway, but this disc is loaded with tons of swampy atmosphere, just like those records that used to come from the gulf coast in the late 50’s/early 60’s. This is due in part to the production values of Little Victor, who also plays guitar and harmonica on the album, the vintage recording equipment (part of which was once housed in the legendary Stax Studios in Memphis), guest artists like harmonica wizards Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore, and piano man Dave Maxwell, and, last but not least, Louisiana Red himself.

Back To The Black Bayou has a dozen tracks, several of which are modern recordings of some of Louisiana Red’s most popular songs. “I’m Louisiana Red”, “Alabama Train”, “Ride On Red, Ride On”, “Too Poor To Die”, and “I Come From Louisiana” still have the same power and feeling of the original versions, even though there are a few tempo changes. The new versions of “I’m Louisiana Red” and “Alabama Train” are particularly cool, and feature great guitar interplay between Red and Victor. “Ride On Red” and “Too Poor To Die” deserve a place in the Blues Hall of Fame for their great lyrics (in the case of the latter, more timely now than ever before).

On the originals, Red gives his best vocal performance and some terrific slide guitar on the Elmore James tribute, “Crime In Motion”,and “Sweet Leg Girl” sounds like an early 50’s Robert Nighthawk Chicago Blues track (save for Red’s distinctive vocal turn). “The Black Bayou” is reminiscent of those old Excello classics, and “You Done Quit Me” grooves relentlessly. “Don’t Miss That Train” is a fine gospel tune, and “Roamin’ Stranger” has a vintage Chess Records feel. “At The Zanzibar” is an instrumental tribute to Muddy Waters and Little Walter (with Kim Wilson tearing it up on harp).

Though I haven’t heard everything Louisiana Red has released, I’ve heard quite a bit, and so far, I haven’t heard anything that wasn’t first-rate. Back To The Black Bayou is a must-have for Red’s devoted fans, and should be required listening for newcomers.

– Graham Clarke

Midwest Record (March 22, 2009)

We haven‘t heard from Red in sometime and it was quite a surprise to hear he’s been living in Germany since 1981. Making this recording in Norway with the board from the original Stax studio, Red goes down memory lane a touch and shows off some new stuff a touch. One of the last old times still standing that made his way along the back roads, he’s one of those cats that can be in his late 70’s and prove that blues is a feeling delivering with the intensity of someone much younger. With a smart crew of ringers behind him, this is some real deal blues for the hard core fan.

– Chris Spector

Nashville City Paper (March 19, 2009)

Iverson Minter AKA Louisiana Red delivers sizzling, slashing guitar licks and forceful lead vocals on this set of original material with the exception of an updated version of “Don’t Miss That Train”.

The opening cut, “I’m Louisiana Red”, along with “I Come From Louisiana” are defining works, while “Alabama Train” and “You Done Quit Me” are other signature pieces.

Red recruited some prime guest stars, including three star harmonica soloists in Kim Wilson, Bob Corritore, and Jostein Forsberg, while his regular band includes stellar second guitarist Little Victor (who does double duty as the disc producer).

– Ron Wynn

Groove.no (Norway) (December 19, 2008)

Fra Chicago til Notodden

Endelig er den her – plata som viser hvem som er sjefen over alle sjefer når det gjelder Chicago-blues i dag.

Mange blueselskere har garantert gått og ventet på at Louisiana Red skulle gi fra seg et virkelig gjennomført godt album som til fulle viser det sprengstoffet som han alltid leverer live. Han er en av de siste gjenlevende formidlerne av Chicago blues i direkte linje fra Muddy Waters – en artist Red selv så og lærte fra. Alle bluesfolk som har opplevd Louisiana Red fra scenen veit at mannen er ekte saker. Men han har en svært brokete diskografi bak seg, noe også arkitekten bak dette prosjektet, Little Victor, trolig har fått med seg. Men etter å ha turnert mye med Red de siste åra kom han i snakk med folka bak Bluestown Records, og det ble avtalt plateinnspilling på Notodden under bluesfestivalen i år.

Dermed er ventetiden for det komplette Louisiana Red albumet over. Dette er plata fansen har ventet på i årevis. Analoge Juke Joint Studio i Notodden er perfekt egnet til å forevige Reds mektige stemme og råere-enn-sushi gitarspill. Omstendighetene ville ha det til at en rekke prominente musikere naturlig nok var i Notodden på samme tid, og folk som Kim Wilson og Bob Corritore på munnspill, samt Dave Maxwell på piano bidrar til å løfte det allerede svært solide kjernebandet. Norske Alexander Pettersen og Bill Troiani (han må finne seg i å bli kalt litt norsk nå) forankrer rytmeseksjonen, og de gjør en fremragende jobb, der de følger Red som de aldri skulle gjort annet enn å kompe mannen.

Stjerna her er likevel Louisiana Red, som har skrevet så godt som alle låtene selv og synger med en vitalitet man vanligvis forbinder med langt yngre foler. Og gitarspillet er et kapittel for seg selv. Sjekk Crime In Motion for en smakebit på hvor rå slide det går an å spille i 2008. Det formelig ryker av høyttalerne når Red fyrer av sine slideløp. Det er nesten vanskelig å plukke høydepunkter på et album så stappa av godbiter. Kim Wilson er som vanlig fantastisk i både den selvbiografiske I’m Louisiana Red og instrumentalen At the Zanzibar (en hyllest til Chicago-klubben med samme navn). Undervurderte Bob Corritore er ikke mye dårligere i Alabama Train.

Det er rett og slett så autentisk lydmessig og instrumentalt at man føler seg hensatt til en tidsmaskin og transportert til Chicagos sørside på 50-tallet. Og ikke minst er det inspirert. Det virker som alle bare har bestemt seg for å og gi jernet i studio og legge sine hundrevis av år med erfaring inn i hvert enkelt spor. Det er Chicago blues det dreier seg om, men det blir ikke kjedelig og stivbeint all den tid det varieres mye tempomessig fra raske dragere som Ride On, Ride On til langt seigere Sweet Leg Girl. Uansett er låtmaterialet råsterkt.

Tekstmessig er det også autentisk, med Red som blottlegger sjela om noe av det han har opplevd i sin tid. Godbiter i så måte er for eksempel den megetsigende Too Poor to Die og såre You Done Quit Me. Andre godbiter som må nevnes er I Come From Louisiana, som svinger grusomt, i tillegg til allerede nevnte Crime in Motion. På plussiden ellers kommer også et smakfullt cover og innsiktsfulle kommentarer til hver låt, skrevet av Little Victor.

Dette er en soleklar kandidat til årets bluesplate i 2008. Etter min mening er Back to the Black Bayounærmest en referansepunkt for hvor god en tradisjonell bluesplate basert på kan være i 2008. Det føles rett og slett som en relevant, levende og nær plate, levert av folk som veit hva dette dreier seg om. Bluestown er nødt til å skaffe distribusjon for denne plata i resten av verden, og det burde ikke være vanskelig. Sammenlignet med Lil Ed, som mange drar frem som autentisk Chicago blues, er dette flere lysår bedre. Hvem skulle trodd at årets Chicago-bluesplate skulle komme fra Notodden? Det er en merkelig, men fin bluesverden, dere.

– Thomas Andersen

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