Live 1975 performance features the renowned blues guitarist at his best
Labor Records has announced the re-release of a live recording by Louisiana Red at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Made during the 1975 Festival, the CD stirs with emotions. This is a spirited and moving performance by a singer-guitarist in his prime, stimulated by a highly appreciative European audience. It is all the more touching when one considers that during the same period Red was largely ignored in his homeland. (In fact, the Montreux experience so impressed Red that he moved permanently to Europe a few years later.)
The last couple of years have shown a renewed interest in Louisiana Red. Red has made several highly successful appearances at blues festivals in the States (the first in 20 years) and his earlier recordings on Roulette and Atco have been re-released. Some years ago a highly praised CD came out on The Blues Alliance label (TBA-13011), featuring the magnificent Lefty Dizz, a masterpiece recorded in the 70's. Record stores have been hard pressed to keep their bins stocked with Red's releases and for good reason. He is one of the few remaining country blues singers who was an important part of the era of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker; Red spent a great deal of time working with these blues giants as well as with other legends of that day.
This Montreux recording may well stand as among Red's greatest works. Red has rarely before or since been so finely tuned and evocative as on this live recording. He sounds like a man who has at long last arrived and in many ways, he had done just that.
REVIEW / Blues Access
This stunning solo acoustic live set was recorded in 1975 and is, thankfully, finally seeing the light of day on CD.
The Alabama-born guitarist and singer is in full command of his considerable powers here, and the vast Montreux Festival audience is totally captivated - evidenced by the enthusiastic applause and attentive silence during Red's performance.
Red primarily inhabits the dark side of the blues - partially autobiographical, partially demon- and mojo-driven, and almost always chilling. His post-depression, pre-war rural Southern upbringing was rife with tragedy (orphaned at the age of five, on the streets at 14).
Red's music harkens to his mentors and inspirations: early Muddy Waters, Fred McDowell, Elmore James. The sweet, pained slide guitar is deeply eloquent here - witness the spooky sustained note near the opening of "Date With Barbara." His lyrics skew toward the haunted, troubled and occasionally downright evil - lyrics that are at their darkest on the stark, homicidal "Sweet Blood Call" ("It'd be hard to miss you, baby, with my pistol in your mouth.")
When Red sings, "I hate the whiskey I crave, for taking me away from you," or "I done served my prison time, but I still don't feel free," the words resonate with unusual veracity.
While this is not your typical "Put your hands together, we're gonna have a good time" type of live recording, the listener is drawn in by the sheer emotive depth of the performance, absorbing a blues reward: an almost vicarious shot of sweet pain. It's as close to busking on some Vicksburg, Mississippi, street corner 60 years ago as one is likely to hear. A deeply vital acoustic blues experience.
-Tali Madden / Blues Access
REVIEW / Living Blues
The eleven selections on this disc were drawn from Iverson "Louisiana Red" Minter's performance at the 1975 Montreux Jazz Festival (at that time he was also working in the studio for the set's producers, Kent Cooper and Heiner Stadler).
As on those studio LP's, which were also released on Cooper/Stadler's Blue Labor logo, Red worked solo at Montreux. Except for the Sam Cooke classic that opens the program, Cooper had a hand in writing all of the songs, which, rather like those that Steve Cushing wrote for Golden Wheeler's and Lurrie Bell's Delmark CD's, are imaginative but sometimes controversial. There are few blues lyrics more lurid than those of "Sweet Blood Call:" "It'd be hard to miss you, baby, with my gun pushed in your mouth/You might be thinking about goin' north, but your brains is staying south." Both vocally and instrumentally, Red forges a stunning amalgam of Waters, Hooker, Hopkins, and James, and his use of amplified guitar helps give the performances more weight and intensity than the acoustic studio versions. The recording is clean and vivid, though marred by the audience's rhythmic clapping on a couple of the faster numbers.
As Cooper asserts in his notes, "Red can project raw heartfelt emotions into a song like few others." At age 64, he should be enjoying the status of an exalted elder statesman, but, of course, the world doesn't work that way, and Red has never gotten the acclaim he merits. Intense and focused, these recordings from a quarter century ago rank among his best.
-Jim DeKoster / Living Blues
REVIEW / Blues Review
Now that Louisiana Red is finally getting the recognition he deserves - last year saw several album releases for the 64-year-old contemporary bluesman, as well as multiple Handy nominations - a plethora of unreleased Red material is sure to begin hitting shelves. This one's a fine 1975 live set before an enthusiastic crowd in Montreux, Switzerland, at a time when he was ignored in the States. "My Heart's a Loser" is intense, "Date With Barbara" is passionate and "Sweet Blood Call" is downright scary. Kent Cooper, who wrote or co-wrote many of Red's '70s-era songs, contributes insightful liner notes.
-Kenneth Bays / Blues Review
Check out the artist's website:
1. Bring It On Home To Me
2. First Degree
3. Look At The Children Run
4. My Heart's A Loser
5. When My Mama Was Living
6. Held Up In One Town
7. Turkey Killer
8. Date With Barbara
9. Standing At Your Door
10. Going Train Blues
11. Sweet Blood Call