Print Media Features & Reviews
BIG CITY RHYTHM & BLUES
Geneva Red has been a belle on the blues scene for almost two decades leading her band, The Roadsters as well as her duo, The Original Delta Fireballs. She's grown up on stage singing and acting with her parents' small theater troupe. After experiencing blues firsthand as a young age her interest shifted from the legit stage to smokey clubs and juke joints, taking up blues harp and the moniker Geneva Red. That harp has taken her far and wide, she's featured in “The Encyclopedia of the Harmonica,” is endorsed by Hohner Harmonica. The Roadsters has included renowned blues guitarists Floyd Murphy (Jr. Parker, Big Mama Thornton, Bobby “Blue” Bland) and Jimmy Johnson who still plays with her today. She's performed with Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Bob Margolin, Sam Carr, Phil Guy, John Primer, “Little” Smokey Smothers, Billy Branch, Paul deLay, Studebaker John and R.J. Mischo. With all she's received from the blues community Red has also given back with her Blues In The Schools programs, “The Muddy Mississippi” performance or “Geneva Red's Hohner Harmonica Workshop” and artistic residency. We caught up with Ms Red while she was digging out from the first winter storm of the season.
IL BLUES (Italy)
BIG CITY RHYTHM & BLUES
She has been called "one of the world's leading female Blues harmonica players." A moniker not easily labeled to someone who has been in the music business for only ten years or so. But when you hear Geneva Red's style and grace on the instrument you immediately know why the reviews have been so kind. Just by hearing her play you feel she's not only paid her dues on the circuit, but has also educated herself in the tradition of so many great harp players who have come and gone before her. Heroes like Sonny Boy I and II, Slim Harpo, Little Walter and DeFord Bailey.
SOUL BAG (Belgium)
Once you go through the Holy Trinity (Musselwhite, Piazza, W. Clarke and now Kim Wilson) and blessed the first apostles (James Harman, Sugar Ray Norcia and Rick Estrin), white American harp players are a run of the mill, difficult to tell them apart from one another in the Walters' scriptures. So, a woman! She too paid her dues to the Saints, especially in her previous work/CDs even recording at Sun Studios with Floyd Murphy, Matt's brother who is responsible for the original solos on Junior Parker's Feelin' Good, Love My Baby and Mystery Train.
Here, her new offering, veers towards more "modernity" a beefed up sound as suggested by the biker cover: leather, boots and sensual two wheeler. This time, she chose Jimmy Johnson, playing along with fine solos (the bluesman, not his Nashville counterpart) and some veterans of Son Seals' band Snapper Mitchum on bass and Tu Sweet Anderson on the drums.
She favors real songs (her singing is sometimes on the edge) not just solos oriented compositions. Her faithful guitar player with a blue collar nickname, Jackie 5&Dime, stays on as the best supportive member of the group in the Chicago blues tradition. Their next CD, already mentioned on the web, will be in the one man band tradition. They are stars in the Middle West. What are we waiting for to promote them in our country?
In The Red is the sophomore release by one of the few women blowing harp and leading her own band. The songs are all original, but the sound is classic '50s blues, and the Chicago-based Geneva Red plays with a driving style that touches all the ancestral bases, including prewar blues (Cotton Ain't King), Walter Horton (First Tune, First Set), modern dance themes (Red's Theme), the obligatory Jimmy Reed-style shuffle (They Tryin' To Ruin Us) and even a solo tribute to the Grand Ole Opry's DeFord Bailey (My Tribute to DeFord). Adding new depth to the Roadsters (still lead by guitarist Jackie 5 & Dime) is Floyd Murphy, whose career goes back to Sun Records, where he played guitar on Mystery Train and other sides by Junior Parker. Also sitting in on seven sides recorded at today's Sun Studio is world class drummer Sam Carr. Blues fans who like harp, solid vocals, and an original playlist that spans the history of the form will enjoy Geneva Red & The Roadsters
JUKE BLUES (UK)
Welcome to a new talent, a fine harmonica player with a good voice, and a nice feel for the music. Writing credits are shared between her guitarist Jackie 5 & Dime, and interest in the enterprise is heightened by the addition of drummers Sam Carr and Earl Howell, as well as Floyd Murphy who, on "Breakfast Tune", reprises his guitar part from Junior Parker's "Feelin' Good". And the final coup was to record the album at Sun Studio in Memphis. Success guaranteed.
AMERICAN HARMONICA NEWS
To my surprise, as I approached the door, I was blown away by some of the sweetest harp playing that I've ever heard. Once inside, I was just flat knocked down. Not only were my ears the beneficiary of a wonderful treat -- but so were my eyes. There at the mic was Geneva Red. Gentleman (and ladies), Red is a tall lithesome beauty with flowing red hair. Dressed in black hip huggers and an open-backed, black leather halter, I would have expected her to be nothing more than eye-candy in any other band. But instead, when I closed my eyes, her tone and phrasing brought to mind the great Chicago blues greats -- Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy II, and Jimmy Reed. I don't know how to describe what I was hearing yesterday and do it justice. Fat? Rich? Instead, I recommend that you visit the Geneva Red web site: www.genevared.com and get the newest CD, In The Red.
Hohner Harmonicas EASY REEDING
Just as her guitar player Jackie 5 & Dime warned, people don't forget Geneva Red once they've seen her perform. Part of the reason is that Red is six feet tall and has flaming red hair. The rest of the reason is her killer harmonica playing.
When it comes to playing the Special 20, Red is a standout. Red learned how to play harmonica by listening to old recordings of blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry, Little Walter and James Cotton. Then she gradually moved to more contemporary blues. "I really enjoy listening to the old guys. But I think now the contemporary players have more of an influence on me. I find Jerry Portnoy absolutely outstanding. I love James Harman too. These guys are my favorites, their tone and phrasing and everything about them is just great. In the beginning I was drawn to Little Walter and Sonny Terry because I had heard about them. But as you grow, you look for ways to make what you do better. Guys like James Harman and Jerry Portnoy represent what is happening with the Blues now."
Progress for Red and the Roadsters is measured by better and better gigs and more mainstream festivals coming their way. Red's next CD, which she plans to cut early in 1999, will include mostly originals. "Generally as a performer, I'm much deeper into the blues now. I've learned more about the harmonica, I've had more experience, and I feel the vocals are getting stronger and I'm more secure with it."
Nice to hear a female harp player! Geneva Red and the Roadsters pull off a nice variety of blues numbers on Alley Ways. A great cover of Mose Allison's "Your Mind is on Vacation" is followed by a spooky, ethereal take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works" - a great adaptation of the standard to fit Geneva's ample harmonica chops. Best cut: the self-penned "Red's Romp," an adrenaline-soaked stomper.