Louisiana Red
Live in Montreux
Blue Labor LAB 7023-2

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 ó evidenced by the enthusiastic applause and attentive silence during Redís performance.

Red primarily inhabits the dark side of the blues ó 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).

Redís music harkens to his mentors and inspirations: early Muddy Waters, Fred McDowell, Elmore James. The sweet, pained slide guitar is deeply eloquent here ó witness the spooky sustained note near the opening of "Date With Barbara." His lyrics skew toward the haunted, troubled and occasionally downright evil ó lyrics that are at their darkest on the stark, homicidal "Sweet Blood Call" ("Itíd 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 donít feel free," the words resonate with unusual veracity.

While this is not your typical "Put your hands together, weíre gonna have a good time tonight" type of live affair, the listener is drawn in by the sheer emotive depth of the performance, absorbing a blue reward: an almost vicarious shot of sweet pain. Itís 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.

ó Tali Madden

©2000 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA