Louisiana Red – The Lowdown Back Porch Blues – Roulette Records (1963)/ Pure Pleasure Records (2013) PPAN R 25200, 34:01 re-mastered 180-gram vinyl ****:
(Louisiana Red – guitars, vocals, harmonica; Karl Lynch – bass; Panama Francis – drums)
The legacy of blues music is distinctly American in its origins. Most (if not all) of these artists were raised in the dimness of Southern prejudice with limited opportunities. Playing music was not financially viable. Consequently, labor-intensive jobs became a necessity for survival. To complicate matters, blues musicians were routinely shortchanged on royalties, often depending on European audiences (and ultimately British rock bands) to sustain their careers. Within this life of struggle, a plethora of iconic songs kept the idiom alive for the world to cherish.
One of these artists is Louisiana Red. Formerly known as Iverson Minter, he survived a devastating childhood (Red’s mother died of pneumonia and his father was lynched by the Klu Klux Klan in Alabama) to make his mark on the blues scene. After a stint in the army he joined the legions of blues men who emigrated north to begin a new life. He briefly played with John Lee Hooker before getting an audition with Roulette Records. His trademark guitar/harmonica and vocals extended his recording and performance stature for decades.
Pure Pleasure Records has re-issued his 1963 debut, Lowdown, Back Porch Blues on 180-gram vinyl. Performing a mix of traditional and original (although there are some ‘dubious” songwriting credits) compositions, Louisiana Red is backed by a bassist (Karl Lynch) and drummer (Panama Francis). Side One gets off to a rowdy start with the self-introductory gem, “Red’s Blues”. There is a socio-political narrative to the song, but it includes a touch of humor. Red’s vocals and guitar are emotive. The blues framework is standard, updating Delta blues in Chicago hooks. “Working Man’s Blues” examines the hardship of balancing hard work and blues music. A certain highlight is the autobiographical “I’m Louisiana Red”. The jam is anchored by a rolling bass line and recounts life in Vicksburg (…”142 in the shade, 162 in the house…”). The listener is treated to a cross section of material, both lowdown (“Sweet Aleese”) and unadulterated, up tempo mojo (“Keep Your Hands Off My Woman”).
Side Two opens with another disdainful commentary (“Ride On Red, Ride On”) on Southern dysfunction. Louisiana Red, with a harmonica-fueled lead, celebrates “life above the Mason-Dixon line”. This artist is more specific and topical than his peers. His vocals demonstrate a unique, idiosyncratic phrasing with occasional modulation. He refers to himself in both the first and third person, especially on “I Wonder Who”. There is a countrified sense of arrangement that inhabits “The Seventh Son”. The guitar notation is understated, but crisp. He embraces the romantic woes of true blues men (“Sad News”) with aplomb, including slide. The final tracks (“Two Fifty Three” and “Don’t Cry”) are up tempo, groove fests comparable to the greats on Chess Records.
The re-mastered vinyl captures the fluid tonality of Louisiana Red’s unique voice. All of the grittiness is present, but with very limited distortion, especially on electric guitar. The rhythm section is mixed well and provides a bottom anchor to the recording. The Lowdown Back Porch Blues should be part of any blues collection.
Side One: Red’s Dream; Working Man’s Blues; I’m Louisiana Red; Sweet Aleese; Keep Your Hands Off My Woman; I’m A Roaming Stranger
Side Two: Ride On Red, Ride On; I Wonder Who; The Seventh Son; Sad News; Two Fifty Three; Don’t Cry
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