Louisiana Red / Little Victor’s Juke Joint – Memphis Mojo

American Blues Scene
Billings Gazette
Blinded By Sound
The BluesPowR Blog
Crossroads Blues Society
Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
In A Blue Mood
Midwest Record
Nashville Blues Society
No Depression
Paris On The Move (France)

The BluesPowR Blog (November 23, 2012)

We’ve talked here before about the Pittsburgh roots of the bluesman called Louisiana Red, who’s logged countless miles since leaving the Steel City for Chicago many decades ago. Having spent 20 years living in Germany, Red’s latest project actually finds him in yet another famous U.S. blues town, reunited with an outfit called Little Victor’s Juke Joint (Back to the Black Bayou) for Memphis Mojo(Ruf Records).

Recorded in Memphis just two days after Red (whose real name is Iverson Minter) took home honors for acoustic artist and acoustic album (You Got to Move with keyboardist David Maxwell) at 2010’s Blues Music Awards, Memphis Mojo is precisely what you’d hope for and expect from Red and this line-up, which includes Little Victor and The Hawk sharing guitar duties with Red, Bob Corritore on harmonica, David Maxwell on piano, and Mookie Brill on bass, in addition to a few others. Even if the listener comes in having no idea of Red’s rich blues history, which has included jamming with the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and nearly every other major bluesman, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Red is the genuine article, between the album’s title and the swampy blues and plaintive vocals of the opening “Goodbye Blues” (only an experienced bluesman such as Red could even think about starting an album with a song about goodbyes).

That’s followed by a Robert Johnson-like “I Had Troubles All My Life,” with its Delta sound, lyrics about picking cotton in Mississippi, and Red’s crackling vocals making it easy to believe he knows just what it means to be troubled. A dark and gritty take on Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” would fit quite nicely in a True Blood episode, complete with creaking coffin and tolling church bell effects to accompany its lyrics, while the hoarse-vocalled “No More Whiskey” is a shuffling romp through the Hill country a la Junior Kimbrough.

“Just Take Your Time” is a tune more in the Windy City style, with some fine piano from Maxwell in addition to the two guitars of The Hawk and Little Victor. From there, they move to the slow shuffle of “Your Lovin’ Man” featuring Red on slide guitar and vocals accompanied by the soulful harp of Corritore, as well as a bit of boogie in “Boogie Woogie Boogie” and a shaking “I’m Gettin’ Tired” that shows Red’s only really tired in attitude.

Two slow blues numbers help to close the album, “So Long, So Long” and “Grandmother’s Death,” along with another guitar-driven shuffler in which Red pleads “why don’t you come back,” which is likely what Blues Music Awards voters will be asking Red upon hearing Memphis Mojo.

– Mike Rick

Billings Gazette (November 18, 2012)

You may not know who Louisiana Red is, but Muddy Waters sure did. So did John Lee Hooker during the early 1960s when Red played slide guitar in his band. And, Eric Burdon of the Animals made a small hit of Red’s “Sweet Blood Call.”

Red got off to a rough start. Born Iverson Minter in 1932, his mother died the same year. Nine years later his father was murdered by the KKK. But, before long he was playing a mean guitar all over the South and made his first recording as a 17-year-old for Chess Records.

Like a lot of jazz and blues musicians of his time, Red was more appreciated in Europe than at home and in 1981 he moved to Germany. In fact, he was there when he won the W.C. Handy Award for best traditional blues artist in 1983.

After returning to the United States in 1997, he labored mostly in obscurity until his “To the Black Bayou” hit two years ago. “Memphis Mojo” is the follow-up, and Red doesn’t mess much with his winning formula.

The songs are mostly originals, gritty and leanly produced, dipping just once into the classic canon with a cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

While Red is a bit of a mush mouth as a vocalist, his guitar playing is impeccable. And, he gets a great boost from a back-up band that includes guitarist Little Victor and Bob Corritore playing harmonica.

Rambles.net (December 10, 2011)

I read here that Memphis Mojo is the sequel to the much-praised, award-winning Back to the Black Bayou (2009). I haven’t heard the latter, but I’m told the two discs are much alike, though the liner notes insist that Mojo “is a decidedly more down-home record … if such a feat is possible.”

You could also say that this is blues without a qualifier on the right-hand side of the hyphen, that qualifier being “rock,” of which there is not a lick, literal or metaphorical, to be heard. You could stick in an adjective or two, though, in front of the noun; “electric country blues” would fill the job. It’s not just the sound of Louisiana Red (Iverson Minter when he’s not on stage) and supporting musicians, it’s the mix. You can call it a muddy mix or a Muddy mix, but it calls to mind — as is the intention — the swampy records Muddy Waters and contemporaries cut in Chess and other studios in the 1950s. This is something you don’t hear much anymore, though a few years ago the Mississippi-based Fat Possum label was busily documenting the relative handful of surviving African-American rural bluesmen. Nearly all of those men — and it was almost entirely men — are gone now.

An African-American guitarist who has spent a life in the blues, Louisiana Red now lives in Europe, which has always appreciated American roots music far more than Americans do. As the title indicates, however, this one was cut in a city with its own deep blues heritage. The small band behind Red traffics in the sort of loose, shambling arrangements that were the natural language of 1950s amped rural blues. Heard by the likes of some young British rock ‘n’ rollers (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, et al), it would reshape the realm of popular music in the 1960s.

It was also close to the last of what would be heard of African America’s Old Southern Sound, as carried north in the mid-20th century black diaspora. By the 1960s electric blues in Chicago, Memphis and elsewhere was starting to be a whole lot more comfortable in its new home. That music had much to admire in it, but it wasn’t the same, and it’s been ever less the same ever since.

Consequently, any trad-blues lover who hears this disc will be smitten on the spot. Louisiana Red, who delivers the bad news in a wonderfully gruff, mumbly voice like they used to, has this stuff in his bones. The guys who play behind him know the sound — and the world — that the songs evoke. Red wrote them all — with a single co-write with lead guitarist/band leader Victor Mac — but one. That one is, appropriately, “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” the 19th-century folk song Blind Lemon brought into the blues repertoire in his classic 1928 recording. But even Red’s originals bear the stamp of the straight and natural blues, floating on a Deep South breeze, just waiting its turn to shamble and mumble.

– Jerome Clark

BluesInTheNorthwest.com (December 4, 2011)

The release of Back To The Black Bayou on Ruf Records in 2009 showcased the well-received collaboration between singer/guitarist Louisiana Red and producer/guitarist Little Victor. That album earned acclaim in Europe with the award of the Grand Prix Du Disque in France and the Record Critics’ Award in Germany.

Memphis Mojo comprises twelve tracks of down-home blues, all but one of which were written by Louisiana Red. The backing band is completed by Alex Pettersen on drums, David Maxwell on piano, Bob Corritore on harp, upright bass players Bill Troiani (on nine tracks) and Mookie Brill (on three tracks) and The Hawk on percussion and guitar.

“Goodbye Blues” rocks along as a lively opener, followed by “I Had Troubles All My Life”, the first of four shuffles that permeate the album. There is a fine version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”, after which the pace is picked up with “No More Whiskey”. “Just Take Your Time” provides a hint of rumba rhythm and is enriched by some tasty guitar riffs from The Hawk, while “Boogie Woogie Boogie” is exactly what its title implies.

“I’m Getting Tired” continues the boogie beat before the slow blues “So Long, So Long” features Louisiana Red on slide guitar and Bob Corritore on harp. The album is concluded by the final shuffle, “Why Don’t You Come On Home”, and “Grandmother’s Death”, another slow blues, suitably enhanced by a splendid helping of soulful harp.

Louisiana Red was born in 1932 and it is very much to his credit that in his eightieth year his vocals are still impressively robust. Credit is also due to Little Victor for his exemplary production and to Ruf Records for championing the cause of the effectively complementary duo and their band.

– Lionel Ross

American Blues Scene (November 15, 2011)

Louisiana Red, a multi-Blues Music Award and W.C. Handy Award-winning artist, has recently released his energetic new album “Memphis Mojo” with Little Victor’s Juke Joint. The album, a shining display of true down-home style, simply simmers with the kind of gritty, energy-soaked blues that stirs the soul. For those that haven’t had the extreme pleasure of finding themselves in a southern juke joint or delta blues bar, this album is an example of what your life’s been missing. Red and company effortlessly float between a slow droning number and searing harmonica fused with mean, mean licks.

Louisiana Red’s vocals can, at times, instill an almost desperate cry. That desperation makes a stirring rendition of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”, as he sings a mourning traditional blues number about the singer’s impending passing as slide guitar, while relatively brief, scorches out licks over skilled, heavy percussion. “I’m Getting Tired” calls up the ghost of R.L. Burnside and throws in a little Odell Harris with Red’s trademark twist. “So Long, So Long” has a throwback feel to the bluesmen that came from Clarksdale, Mississippi in the heyday of the blues. L.R. manages to bring it full-circle by slipping the new Clarksdale blues legends, Big Jack Johnson and Super Chikan Johnson, into lyric.

The distinctly appealing echo the reverberates from the vocals and instruments on some tracks will make the listener feel like they’re sitting at a bar deep in the delta while Red and company play their hearts out. It’s perfectly clear where Red’s influences come from, throwing down an occasional Howlin’ Wolf howl, Muddy slide, and John Lee Hooker drone. But L.R. uniquely makes it his own, a feat that is far more challenging than one would think. There’s a track for everyone on the album, and all are excellent.

– Matt Marshall

Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (November 2011)

Born in 1932 in Bessemer, Alabama as Iverson Minter, Louisiana Red has recorded more than 50 albums for labels such as Chess, Checker and Roulette; he won a W.C. Handy award in 1983 as Best Traditional Male Blues Musician. This is the second disc for Ruf Records that pairs the legendary Louisiana Red with producer/protégé/guitarist Little Victor. The first disc,Back To The Black Bayou very deservedly won numerous European record critics awards (the equivalent to our Grammy). For this disc they take a slightly different focus, shifting from the swamps and bayous to the back alleys of Memphis. They keep the same core of musicians that were on the first with Louisiana Red on vocals, guitar and slide guitar, Little Victor on guitar and lead guitar, Mookie Brill on upright bass, Alex Pettersen drums, and Bob Corritore on harmonica as the basic band with a a few others lending important support.

The songwriting is still Louisiana Red’s (Iverson Minter) on eleven of the twelve cuts, on two of those cuts he is co-writer with Victor Mac (Little Victor) and the one he didn’t write, is a haunting cover of the Lemmon Jefferson / Walter Lewis cut, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, and it keeps the spirit of the original while exploring some new ground. This pairing of these two men seems to be one of those natural get togethers that is beneficial to both and leaves plenty of room to grow. A very solid disc that exploits the qualities of the slide guitar as it explores the driving alleys of Memphis.

– Bob Gottlieb

Paris On The Move (France) (November 2011)

La toute nouvelle immersion dans le pur blues roots cuvée septembre 2011 se fait ici, avec le nouvel opus de Louisiana Red. Le bluesman natif de l’Alabama nous assène douze nouveaux morceaux à couper au couteau. Onze qu’il signe de son nom dans le civil, Iverson Minter, et une reprise d’un titre de Lemon Jefferson. Il faut rappeler qu’ayant perdu son père à l’âge de cinq ans, lynché par des assassins du KKK (Ku Klux Klan), le jeune Iverson a eu pas mal de sentiments de tous ordres gravés dans le sang et qu’il nous les restitue à chaque fois qu’il se saisit de sa guitare…en tant que Louisiana Red. D’autant qu’il a également passé quelques années en compagnie de John Lee Hooker et que cela a du lui forger le doigté.

Après une cinquantaine d’opus à son actif et deux nouveaux Blues Music Award en 2010 (‘Acoustic Artist of The Year’ et ‘Acoustic Album of The Year’), ce que Louisiana Red nous sert aujourd’hui est de la même veine.

Côté musiciens invités à l’accompagner, on a droit à quelques belles pointures: Bob Corritore à l’harmonica, ou Little Victor à la guitare. Le premier a enregistré une quarantaine de disques en tant que musicien et a produit près d’une cinquantaine d’albums. Le second est un bluesman authentique qui, après avoir commencé sa carrière avec l’harmonica, s’essaya à la guitare avec les plus authentiques, à raison de six jours par semaine dans Beale Street, à Memphis, Tennessee. Pour vous résumer la carrière intrinsèquement blues du gaillard, je ne peux oublier de vous rappeler qu’il a officié avec R. L Burnside, Junior Kimbrouggh et Hubert Sumlin. Ils jouent ensemble depuis 2005 et l’album ‘Back To The Blues Bayou’ a déjà scellé leur collaboration pour un long moment. On retrouve d’ailleurs certains des acteurs de ce premier ouvrage commun dans la nouvelle production, comme les deux artistes précédemment cités ou David Maxwell au piano.

Que celui qui veut de la nouveauté à tout prix, s’abstienne! Car avec cet opus on a les pieds dans les racines du blues le plus roots. A moins que vous ne souhaitiez comprendre enfin les origines de ce que vous recherchez absolument. Mais cet opus s’adresse aussi à tous ceux qui ne se lassent jamais d’écouter les bons vieux blues crades du sud des Etats Unis car c’est superbement bien fait et l’on ne peut s’empêcher d’y découvrir quelque chose de…neuf à chaque fois, malgré tout!

– Dominique Boulay

Crossroads Blues Society (November 2011)

Red’s going to be eighty years young in a couple of months. He’ll be touring a heavy set of dates in Europe when he turns eighty, and he still sounds and acts fresh as a gnarly old daisy; well, bluesmen and daisies may not go to-gether but hopefully you get the picture.

This is a dirty old, down home sounding album, focusing on straight up, traditional Delta blues. His life has been a blues song. His mother died a week after he was born, his Dad was murdered by Klansmen when he was nine, and his first wife died of cancer just as he was about to be rediscovered n the 1970’s. He spent a lot of time in Europe and was rediscov-ered in the US again in 1997. He followed up his 2008 blues and Greek bouzouki CD with the award winning You Got to Move in 2010 and this CD last year. He’s as hot as he ever was!

Surrounded by Little Victor, Bob Corritore, David Maxwell, Mookie Brill, and others, Red put out a great set of tunes here. He penned all but one– Blind Lemon Jeffer-son’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean”. A haunting hollow electric guitar sound by Red graces this track; that and his authen-tic vocals make it a winner. Even more impressive is that he’s created 11 new songs and all are pretty damn good. I’ve listened a dozen times and can’t pick out a favorite because they are all intriguing and well-done.

This is a great album. Red’s vocals and guitar and Little Victor’s guitar are so well done and Corritore’s harp is a great ac-companiment. I loved this one as will all traditional blues lovers!

– Steve Jones

Blinded By Sound (October 15, 2011)

Louisiana Red and Little Victor’s Juke Joint first paired up on Back To The Black Bayou, an album nominated for Best Traditional Blues Record at the 2010 Blues Music Awards. They brought Memphis to Europe where Red lives these days for that record, finding a studio with a ’60s Auditronics mixing console formerly housed in Memphis’ Stax Studio.

Fast forward to May 6, 2010 and Louisiana Red has just won two BMAs. He didn’t win forBayou (his awards were for his collaboration with veteran pianist David Maxwell, You Got To Move) but he took to the stage with Victor’s Juke Joint for one of the highlights of the evening.

Bob Corritore’s liner notes for Memphis Mojo give away a secret a few of us who attended the BMAs have known for awhile: two days after the ceremony, Red, Victor, Corritore, and Maxwell holed up in a Memphis studio and began work on the sequel; they didn’t need to bring Memphis to them this time and the magic of the first record carries over to this newest one, once again capturing raw, deep blues.

Vintage recording equipment and magical musical centers can add to the aura of a record but they guarantee nothing when it comes to the final project. I think of Louisiana Red in much the same way I think of John Lee Hooker. They are blues masters and not just anybody can sit in and play with them and have it turn out right. Bayou worked and Mojoworks because Red isn’t relegated to being a guest on his own record. The musicians who took part in these sessions are seasoned players who understand where Red’s blues come from and how to support him.

David Maxwell plays some great piano on “Why Don’t You Come Home” and some modern producers might have shoved Red aside and pushed that up in the mix but that’s not the approach here. Red and Victor’s guitar interplay are pushed out front and Maxwell plays his ass off beneath.

You can’t take your ears off Red’s howling, distinctive cadence on “Boogie Woogie Boogie” and “Yolanda,” but Maxwell and Corritore get in their licks on piano and harp without taking the spotlight from the man at the center of it all (although Bob is particularly feisty on “Yolanda”).

Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” is the lone cover on this 12-song set, and Alex Pettersen’s hypnotic drumming keys the staid reading of this blues classic until Red pierces gentle drone with a stinging slide lead.

It’s rarely complementary to say two records are barely distinguishable from one another but in the case of Back To The Black Bayou and Memphis Mojo, it’s the highest praise. Serious listeners can parse them and find the subtle differences a worthwhile way to spend your time but it’s missing the point because we don’t want them to change what they’re doing when it’s working this damn well. Little Victor, his Juke Joint, Corritore, and Maxwell didn’t mess with success, they helped a master achieve it one more time.

– Josh Hathaway

In A Blue Mood (October 10, 2011)

Iverson Minter, better known as Louisiana Red, has had a distinguished recording career that dates back six decades. Red has recorded many memorable recordings over the years, whether his challenge to Muddy Waters, Gonna Play My Guitar, as Playboy Fuller’ Red’s Dream, that the legendary Henry Glover produced from a session with Tommy Tucker on piano;Louisiana Red Sings the Blues, an Atco album with the late Bill Dicey on harmonica; the Blue Labor album Sweet Blood Call, with some very chilling vocals; a solo set, “Sittin’ Here Wonderin’, as well as Millennium Blues, for Earwig; and more recently Black to the Black Bayou on Ruf. I could cite other titles, but one should get the point that Louisiana Red has been laying down some stone cold, real blues killers for decades.

Ruf has issued a new Louisiana Red album, Memphis Mojo, which like the “Black Bayou” disc has him joined with Little Victor’s Juke Joint who I presume is Little Victor on guitar, Bill Troiani on bass and Alex Pettersen on drums with appearances by Dave Maxwell on piano, Bob Corritore on harmonica, ‘The Hawk’ on maracas and Mookie Brill on bass for several tracks. This is a solid recording in the vein of the classic Chicago blues of Muddy Waters and Elmore James, mixed in with some North Mississippi Hill Country flavor. Red’s voice perhaps is a bit more gravelly, but the robustness of his vocals still stand out. The backing throughout is strong, sounding traditional yet fresh.

The songs, with one exception are originals opening with Goodbye Blues, with a groove evocative of Muddy Waters’ Louisiana Blues, set to a driving accompaniment with Little Victor taking the lead on guitar and Corritore wailing on harp. I Had Troubles All My Life, may have been done by Red before but is strongly delivered as he sings about wanting to go back to Mississippi with a bit of howling. The one cover is Blind Lemon Jefferson’s See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, with Little Victor providing atmospheric use of tremolo with his guitar helping make an original rendition of this standard. It is followed by the North Mississippi Hills groove of No More Whiskey. Yolanda has Maxwell on piano and Corritore on harp for a strong Chicago styled blues. Your Lovin’ Man, is a downhome blues with Red laying down tough sounding slide, while I’m Gettin’ Tired has an insistent groove suggestive of Junior Parker’s Feelin’ Good.

So Long, So Long, conjures the early Muddy Waters recordings with Big Crawford on bass and Little Walter on harmonica. It perhaps is the standout track on a recording with many excellent performances. Memphis Mojo is a superb blues recording likely to receive many of the accolades Red’s prior disc received. Such recognition will be well deserved.

My review copy was provided by a publicist.

– Ron W

No Depression (October 8, 2011)

If the Blues were a drug this album would be for mainlining!

Yowza! Yowza! Yowza! What have I discovered here?

After discovering Rory Gallagher and Johnny Winter in my youth I developed a deep rooted love for the Blues in all its formats; but always preferred anything influenced by Muddy Waters and Louisiana Red just might be his Love Child!

Born in 1932 and living the last 20 or so years in Germany Red still has a fire burning in his belly that comes through in his songs and some exceptional guitar playing.

From opening track Goodbye Blues to the finale Grandmothers Death we are treat to a Masterclass by a musician who has not only ‘walked the walk’ and ‘talked the talk’ but got the t-shirt too.
The fella’s 81 but on Yolanda he still talks about ‘going to California/to see an old girlfriend of mine’ and you know what the rascal has on his mind.

Your Lovin Man is in a similar vein and starts with a studio chat between Red and the Producer, which leaves you in no doubts that this guy is serious about the sound he wants and Little Victor supplies it in spades.

Boogie Woogie Boogie is exactly what it says on the tin – Boogie and Woogie to get the toes a tapping! I’m Getting Tired sounds nothing of the sort as the band rock the joint and So Long So Long tips its hat to Robert Johnson as Red plays some stinging slide guitar and Bob Corritore blows the reeds out of his harmonica. Praise the Lord that this music still exists.

See That My Grave is Kept Clean begins with the tolling of a Church Bell then Red goes on to set out the funeral that he wants and asks the favour See That My Grave is Kept Clean; a simply magnificent song executed superbly.

Louisiana Red has the perfect crackling/lived in voice for the Blues and his own guitar playing is excellent but the supporting players, Little Victor and The Hawk on guitars, David Maxwell – piano, Alex Petterson – drums, Bill Troiani – bass and the timeless wailing harmonica of Bob Corritore must all be saluted for services above and beyond the call of duty.

With music as good as this the Blues will never die.

– Alan Harrison

Nashville Blues Society (October 4, 2011)

In 2009, Iverson Minter, better-known as Louisiana Red, released “Back To The Black Bayou,” which paired Red with producer-guitarist Little Victor. This album carried home two Blues Awards in May of 2010, and, most of the band members were in attendance that evening. Two days later, the fellows went in to Leeway Studios in Memphis, still reveling in their successes from the Awards show, and laid down the tracks for what would be their latest release, “Memphis Mojo.” Red is in great voice, and his playing has never sounded more relaxed. Surrounded by his friends and contemporaries, this set sounds like a group of bluesmen on our front porch, just letting the blues flow freely. Again, Victor is on guitar along with The Hawk, David Maxwell is on piano, Mookie Brill is on bass, Alex Pettersen is on drums, and Bob Corritore blows the harp. These twelve cuts continue in the vein of the previous album, altho they have a bit of a harder edge this time ’round.

Louisiana Red is one of the last of the real-deal Delta bluesmen, but he can still bring the heat with the best of the young’uns. Check out his deep, piercing slide on a brooding, swampy take of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and again on the loping “Who’s gonna be your Lovin’ Man when I leave,” complete with a humorous spoken intro referring to “collard greens and cornbread.’ “I’m Gettin’ Tired” has a rolling, freight-train beat, with a sweet solo from Victor at the bridge, while Bob Corritore’s harp is the perfect complement to Red’s plaintive vocal in the set-closing “Grandmother’s Death.”

We had two favorites, too. The band rocks behind Red’s vocals on the good times of “Boogie Woogie Boogie,” while one of the most powerful cuts on the set is an all-acoustic trip down to the Delta, “So Long, So Long,” featuring Red’s wailin’ slide and a shout-out to his “friends down in Clarksdale,” Big Jack Johnson and Super Chikan.

Louisiana Red is the leader of a powerhouse team of bluesmen that were at the absolute top of their game when they recorded “Memphis Mojo.” This set should not be missed, fans, because it is sho ’nuff keepin’ the faith!!!

Until next time…

Sheryl and Don Crow.

Midwest Record (October 2011)

Unassuming blues choogle that will insidiously get under your skin like Mississippi John Hurt used to. And that’s why the last outing by this bunch grabbed almost every award the blues world could bestow upon it. About a million years old and one of the last remaining links to the past, Red is a must hear treat. This is blues for everyone that likes it old school but with no dust on it. Simply great.

– Chris Spector

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