Louisiana Red is a spontaneous kind of guy. He never writes any of his songs on paper, even for a recording session. The five British musicians who backed him on this release knew nothing of Red's intentions when they entered the studio. Red's extemporaneous approach could have spelled disaster, but it actually enhances this album. There's a loose jam-oriented feel to the recording, making it the blues equivalent of a Grateful Dead album.
Born Iverson Minter in Vicksburg, Miss., Louisiana Red never knew his mother. She died of pneumonia one week after Red was born. When Red was age five, the Ku Klux Klan murdered his father. Red was forced to move in with an aunt in Pittsburgh, where his uncle beat him relentlessly. Given his hellish childhood, it’s no wonder Louisiana Red decided to move to Europe as an adult. He’s resided in Germany since the 1980s, and he’s now a fixture on the European blues circuit.
Red’s attitude is amazing given his history, and his engaging personality comes shining through on this disk, recorded in 1990 in England and just recently released in the States.
Muddy Waters was Louisiana Red's mentor, so his music is strongly influenced by Chicago blues. Always Played the Blues features the double-guitar attack of Red and British axeman Richard Sudholme, and it's a fine raucous effort. Red also plays harmonica and sings, while talented New Orleans-based pianist Jon Cleary delivers a surprising Otis Spann-like performance.
Some of these 12 songs are much lengthier than your average blues tunes, but the musicians play then with raw intensity, so they never grow tedious. Highlights include "Sun Goes Down," a rowdy boogie, and "Hello, Mean Old World," an emotive slow tune with some nice slide playing by Red. Louisiana saves his best for the final two cuts. "Feeling Inside" is a jaunty feel-good tune with an irresistible rock 'n roll backbeat. "Mambo Mumbo" is a danceable New Orleans-style instrumental on which Cleary delivers his usual Professor Longhair-like performance.
With nearly 75 minutes of spontaneous electric blues, this one serves a fine introduction to Louisiana Red.