Had Iverson Minter, or Louisiana Red, as he's more commonly known, stopped recording after a few seminal sides in the 1950's, his place in blues history would still be fairly secure. Thankfully, he's continued, if somewhat sporadically, since then. "A Different Shade of Red - The Woodstock Sessions," although new, was cut in August of 2000, at Levon's Barn, that of Levon Helm, partner in crime of The Band, and a blues hound if ever there was one, and as the title suggests, it is a different shade of Louisiana Red. Regarded as a monster songwriter, slashing guitarist, and one of the most forthright of solo blues performers, this excellent slice of recent Minter is as fresh and exciting as any of his previous work, but this time, he's surrounded by a powerful horn section and a pair of producers who understand Red's left-field approach. Clocking in at just under 45 minutes and recorded crystal-clear, it sounds as if Red and the band are in your home, blasting out chunks of R&B and smoldering blues, for your enjoyment, and that of the neighborhood, should you decide to turn it up loud enough.
Kicking out a Lowell Fulson groove (think "Tramp") for the opener, "Take Your Time" swells heftily with Benjie Porecki's organ underneath pumping horns and a tasty tenor solo from David Raynor and Red's voice is in fine form on the jumping "Lou Jean," but it's "Alabama Train" where things begin to come into complete focus. Laced with riveting guitar, impassioned vocals, and a soaring horn chart, Red sounds distinctly different than on any of his other works, yet at the same time, he sounds like his usual, vivid self. "I Had A Dream" shuffles along a glass bed, thanks to Helm's solid backbeat and Steve Gomes holding the bottom side and then "Blue Evening" follows, a simmering, slow-rocking gem with a sultry feel where Red turns in some well-shined bottleneck. "Blues 2001" is a remembrance of the long journey that has been Iverson Minter's and with its visual imagery, a drilling guitar break, and vocal-honking that stands well apart from any other, it's brilliant. Things go all the way down-home for "Laundromat Blues," yet don't look for Albert King's version, here Red plays some primal backwoods National joined by Helm's harp warbling and David Maxwell's spot-on piano. The affair charges ahead on "Lightning Bug" with the horns thick and greasy, sounding not unlike a James Brown romp, but it's Louisiana Red's voice that offers the most compelling part of the cut with a menacing attitude. "Where's My Friends" lays squarely in an electric blues pocket with its loping beat and crashing slide that careens back and forth between some growling vocals, while on "Phillipa," Jimmy Vivino's mandolin scoots around underneath acoustic guitar and calls back decades past when Yank Rachell was alive and well. Closing out with "Sleep Little Robert," it harkens back to the Philadelphia R&B sound, a definite influence on Red.
With Brian Bisesi, Steve Gomes, Levon Helm, and David Maxwell making up the core unit, Red is in good hands here, but add the talents of Ola Dixon, Benjie Porecki, Jimmy Vivino, and Garth Hudson, and the sparks fly. While Louisiana Red might be regarded as a mastermind of blues, his efforts here skirt a number of styles easily and comfortably. Produced by Bisesi and Vivino, "A Different Shade of Red - The Woodstock Sessions" succeeds on all levels. As an interesting side note, just as the town of Woodstock, NY, accepted the presence of Muddy Waters, here they do the same for Red, turning out for a wonderful foldout photo that includes descendants of those photographed with Muddy years before. For more information, check out www.severnrecords.com and find out more on this solid new release, plus many other great items in their growing catalog.
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