It’s always a pleasure to find a new release from harp-master Bob Corritore’s treasure trove of great old blues music — his “From the Vaults” series.
This time he celebrates the unique blues guitar stylings and prolific songwriting skills of the too-often overlooked Louisiana Red.
Red, whose real name was Iverson Minter, was something of a blues vagabond, although in his younger years, he lived where his family took him. He was born in Bessemer, Ala., and his mother died of pneumonia shortly after his birth. His father was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in 1937, when he was five.
He was then raised by relatives in various places, including Pittsburgh, where he reportedly learned to play the blues. The Pittsburgh Music History website describes those years:
“In his teens Iverson moved to Canonsburg, Pa., (south of Pittsburgh) to live with an aunt and uncle. He moved into the city of Pittsburgh with his grandmother in the late 1940’s. One day in Pittsburgh, Red heard blues guitarist Crit Walters playing on his porch. Walters (also known as Boy B) serenaded passers-by every day with down home blues. Red asked Walters to teach him the blues. Red also studied wtih another Pittsburgh bluesman named Mr. Cash. After learning the basics from Walters and Cash, Red and his friend Orville Whitney formed a three-piece band composed of a washboard player, a washtub bass player, and himself on bottleneck guitar. They performed on the streets of Pittsburgh for pennies, earning $5 dollars on a good night. Red’s 1995 release “Sittin Here Wonderin'” features his song “Pittsburgh Blues.”
And in an interesting sidelight to that, I remember seeing Red at the The Decade, a long-gone but musically vital club in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, probably in the late ’70s, shortly before he moved to Hanover, Germany, in 1981, where he lived until his death in 2012.
Red’s music was usually an old-style acoustic, down-home blues with a fierce slide and lyrics that told stories often taken from his past, if not his wonderfully fertile imagination. He lived a little too late to be considered with the early pre-war acoustic players, and he didn’t adopt the electric blues combo style that came to dominate the post-war blues years. So his creative songwriting and stinging slide often got lost in the blues world. But Red recorded 50 albums and carried his music around the world until he died.
This album was recorded at seven different sessions between 2000 and 2009 with Corritore, who became Red’s close friends during their Chicago years. Other musicians involved in these tracks include Chico Chism, David Maxwell, Bob Margolin, Little Victor, Buddy Reed, Johnny Rapp, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, and Brian Fahey.
All this is to introduce, or re-introduce you to the music of Louisiana Red. This album is tough, old-fashioned blues, played by Red with a passionate guitar attack combined with an evil-sounding slide, which could range from angry to ethereal.
About that name: It was a nickname given to him as a child by his grandfather because he really liked “Louisiana Red” hot sauce.
This is truly classic blues material, a hot sauce in its own way. Enjoy it and thank Bob Corritore for preserving it.
“New Jersey Blues,” from the new album:
“Thirty Dirty Woman” from a concert in Switzerland in 1986, to give you an idea of Red’s guitar work:
01. Mary Dee Shuffle (05:01)
02. Early Morning Blues (03:59)
03. Alabama Train (03:32)
04. Caught Your Man And Gone (04:55)
05. New Jersey Blues (05:30)
06. Freight Train To Ride (03:56)
07. Tell Me ‘Bout It (04:09)
08. Earline Who’s Been Foolin’ You (03:24)
09. Edith Mae (04:29)
10. Bessemer Blues (04:51)
11. Bernice Blues (06:15)