Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Louisiana Red - Back to the Black Bayou (Ruf, 2009)

Blues guitarist and songwriter Louisiana Red has been around for a long time, moving between acoustic and electric settings for his emotional and often autobiographical songs. Red's songs convey the wisdom of a long life earned the hard way, and he never lets his periods of scuffling and heartbreak get to him, but turns them into material for his music. He's backed here by a tough combo called Victor's Juke Joint, and the band's sound does have the classic sound of the blues juke joint like Junior Kimbrough's famous juke in the Hill Country of Mississippi or a tavern like Theresa's in Chicago. He tells his own story in the opener "I'm Louisiana Red", a biographical blues that demonstrates the ups and downs of his life over a nice shuffle beat. "Alabama Train" draws on some of the classic mythology of the blues, that of the bluesman being in constant motion, and the lure and lore of the locomotive. "Ride On, Ride On" really kicks the band into overdrive with a propulsive beat and stinging guitar work. "Too Poor To Die" brings back some more classic refrains from blues history, riffing on the poverty of the working man who can't die because he's too poor to pay the undertaker. "At the Zanzibar" wraps things up with some very nice guitar playing backed by locked tight bass and drums. This is a good solid album of raw and immediate old school blues. This music was actually recorded in Norway, but you wouldn't know it by the sound. Captured on vintage equipment, it recalls the classic halcyon days of electric blues while keeping the music in a forward looking direction.

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