Down Beat - p.573 stars out of 5
-- "[H]e revisits songs he recorded decades ago with a rough-and-tumble vigor that celebrates, not pulverizes, the human spirit."
Personnel: Louisiana Red (guitar); Bob Corritore (guitar); Kim Wilson (harmonica); Reidar Larsen (bass guitar); David Maxwell (drums).
"Raw" is an overused and sometimes misapplied term of admiration, especially in the realm of the blues, where it is all too often used as a euphemism for "incompetent and off-key." In the case of Louisiana Red's Back to the Black Bayou, however, it's the only apt descriptor, and it's fully justified as a term of praise: his sound is ragged-edged and fiery, though its center is utterly solid and his delivery is unfailingly powerful. Having lived in Germany since the early '80s, he went to neighboring Norway to record this album with producer and guitarist Little Victor, and even if the program leans heavily toward old and familiar material ("Ride on Red," "Too Poor to Die," "I Come from Louisiana"), he gives every track an almost shocking immediacy and energy; the subtle rhythmic shifts and adjustments on "Alabama Train" are handled with both grace and authority, "Roamin' Stranger" is given a powerfully grinding rendition, and the traditional gospel song "Don't Miss That Train" provides a nicely shuffling changeup in both lyrical theme and rhythm. But he is perhaps at his most impressive on "Sweet Leg Girl," a slow blues that shows just how much an expatriate bluesman with 60 years of experience can still do. ~ Rick Anderson