The famed Louisiana Red passed away this year, and the Labor label has released a compendium of entirely unreleased tracks in memory of the great man. It's a beautifully raw look at solo blues from a cat who knew in whose back yard he was howling and why. The first cut alone, Walk all over Georgia, is a powerful exposition of down home shout 'n growl. Just Red and a harmonica, it's a potent reminder as to why the American and Brit rockers were so attracted to the old blues masters for source material. There was nothing in either land's otherwise extent repertoire that came anywhere near it. FAME's Bob Gottlieb reviewed two previous electric ensemble releases from Red (here and here), who can boast a back catalogue of over 50 releases (!), but this one burrows beneath everything to surgically remove the backbone of the blues and set it out for inspection and the ear's delight.
The majority of material here is of his own or co-written with Kent Cooper (Georgia, for one, is Cooper's) and then standards such as King Bee (Slim Harpo), You got to Move (Davis / MacDowell), John Henry (trad), and a track by Peg Leg Sam (I'll be Glad when You're Dead, You Rascal You) who also appears on four cuts. Got a Girl with a Dog won't Bark illustrates why Red worked so well with Cooper, though, as both have and had (Cooper survives Red's passing and supplied the disc with three and a half pages of excellent liner notes) a pronounced liking for emphasis and contrast matched with a full-blooded lust in life and its living.
Red was widely praised for his vocals and guitar playing, especially slide, but that harp of his is magnificent as well all through these primo recordings, as is Peg Leg Sam's blowing, both of them elastic and frequently radical. People sometimes forget how out of the box the old blues could get while remaining faithful to itself, and one need listen no further than to some of Chuck Berry's work to see how it started transferring over to rock and roll. When my Mama was Living is blues for when you want the real thing, the gritty, sardonic, from the gut and heart pain and revelation of life close to the ground. There may or may not be tribute CDs issued upon Louisiana Red's passing, but none will serve better, I'm quite sure, than this one culled from hidden masterpieces from the legend himself. Oh, and the Labor label? It's distributed by Naxos. Figures, 'cause those cats know what the hell they're doin', no matter whatever genre they interest themselves in.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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