Iverson Minter has a new CD. You probably know him better as Louisiana Red, and you also probably know that he's got some Pittsburgh roots.
But let's talk about his CD first. "Memphis Mojo" (Ruf Records) is his second album with Little Victor's Juke Joint, a tight little blues band that fits right in with Red's true-blue talents.
Red is a creative songwriter and a tough slide player, and the result has always been interesting songs that don't shy away from contemporary subject matter. All the tracks here but one ("See That My Grave Is Kept Clean") are written or co-written by Red. And they are all crackling good blues.
At 79, Red's vocals are still potent and his guitar skills sound like they've been ripped from classic blues tracks. Songs like 'Goodbye Blues" and "I Had Troubles All My Life" churn up tough electric blues sounds, and Red's high-lonesome vocal style fits perfectly with his keening slide -- see the powerful track "So Long, So Long" with its sorrowful harp solo by Bob Corritore and nice thumping upright bass by Mookie Brill.
These are classic blues, sung by someone who seems to have felt them all his life. In a 2010 Blues Revue magazine article on Red, Corritore, who shared his home with Red in the 1980s, wrote:
"There is no separation between Red and his music. His guitar playing is an expression of his moment. There were times when Red would really be hurting, and he would be crying while he was playing."
Iverson Minter did have a pretty tough life. He was born in Bessemer, Ala. and his mother died shortly after. His father was lynched when he was five, and Red spent the rest of his young life with relatives and in homes, spending time in Pittsburgh (one account says Canonsburg) in his teen years.And according to another account, that's where he really started to learn blues guitar.
The Louisiana nickname seems to have come from his love of a hot sauce from that state, and not from any history there. I suppose he could just as easily have been Pittsburgh Red if Heinz had spicier ketchup.
He wrote a song called "Pittsburgh Blues," and spent some time here performing. He did a live gig on Joe Rosen's WYEP blues show in 1978, and I'm pretty sure I saw him at the old Decade about that time. He wound up in Germany, where he still lives, and I imagine, probably gets more respect than he would have here -- just a guess.
Whatever blues highway he traveled, you can listen to this CD and hear the blues that he absorbed along the way. It's good to know there's still some of that with us.
Here's a video of Red -- one of his many autobiographical compositions: