Louisiana Red has had the Blues from the ground up. His mother died shortly after his birth and his dad was lynched by the KKK when he was still a young lad. Despite his stately birth name of Iverson Minter, Red spent his subsequent early years shuffled between cruel relations and orphanages.
Like a true Bluesman, Red lived his art and breathed into it a fire that has been witnessed and celebrated the world over. By this writer’s count, Red played on at least 81 albums. He expatriated to Hanover, Germany in 1983 and lived their until his passing in 2012. Red was mentored by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and friends with host of others. His was able to cultivate, channel and meld several styles into a sound and delivery wholly his own. His music was never abandoned here in the States, nor fully appreciated, but he was immensely popular in Europe where he toured extensively.
The tracks on Working Mule were actually recorded over a 13 year period, from 1994 through 2007. A featured artist is, ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman, playing national steel guitar on tracks 8 & 9, “Goodbye Jack Dupree,” & “Early In The Morning respectively. “Guitar” Johnny Nicholas is also featured on piano (yeah, Johnny on piano) on a couple of tracks, track 12, “I Done Woke Up,” & 13, “Same Thing.”
Another highlight is Red’s collaboration with the George Pilali Band on track 2, the Elmore James composition, “The Sky Is Crying.” The band is actually from Greece and steeped in traditional Grecian music. In addition to national steel guitar, bass and percussion they also play instruments that are native to Greece; the sazi, tsabouna and yali tanbur. The result is a stringed lament intro that swings right into a funky, down home guitar and national steel slide romp with Red and George Pilali.
The album also features another band from Greece, with whom Red toured and played with extensively, Blues Wire. They perform 2 Muddy Waters songs, “Champagne And Reefer,” and “What Is That She Got,” on tracks 3 &4. 9 of the 14 tracks presented here are songs written by Red himself. His commentary, observations and asides, evident throughout, give the listener indications of how strong and larger than life Red’s personality was.
There is a wealth of information available about the legend of Louisiana Red, some of it contradictory. Bob Corritore has some great images, including the earliest known photo of Louisiana Red at www.bobcorritore.com. Also Blues Blast cover girl Teeny Tucker has a stunning shot of her, Red and her guitarist, Bob Hughes at www.teenytucker.com. The legacy of Louisiana Red is well worth exploring.