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R.L. Burnside

ON AIR
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North Mississippi guitarist R.L. Burnside was one of the paragons of state-of-the-art Delta juke joint blues. The guitarist, singer and songwriter was born November 23, 1926 in Oxford, MS, and made his home in Holly Springs, in the hill country above the Delta. He lived most of his life in the Mississippi hill country, which, unlike the Delta region, consists mainly of a lot of small farms. He learned his music from his neighbor, Fred McDowell, and the highly rhythmic style that Burnside plays is evident in McDowell's recording as well. Despite the otherworldly country-blues sounds put down by Burnside and his family band, known as the Sound Machine, his other influences are surprisingly contemporary: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins. But Burnside's music is pure country Delta juke joint blues, heavily rhythm-oriented and played with a slide. It wasn't until the 1990's that he began hitting full stride with tours and his music, thanks largely to the efforts of Fat Possum Records. The label has issued recordings made by a group of Burnside's peers, including Junior Kimbrough, Dave Thompson and others. Up until the mid-'80s, Burnside was primarily a farmer and fisherman. After getting some attention in the late '60s via folklorists David Evans and George Mitchell (Mitchell recorded him for the Arhoolie label), he recorded for the Vogue, Swingmaster and Highwater record labels. Although he had done short tours, it wasn't until the late '80s that he was invited to perform at several European blues festivals. In 1992, he was featured alongside his friend Junior Kimbrough (whose Holly Spings juke joint Burnside lives next to), in a documentary film, Deep Blues. His debut recording, Bad Luck City, was released that same year on Fat Possum Records. Burnside has a second record out on the Oxford-based Fat Possum label, Too Bad Jim (1994). These recordings showcase the raw, barebones electric guitar stylings of Burnside, and on both recordings he's accompanied by a small band, which includes his son Dwayne on bass and son-in-law Calvin Jackson on drums, as well as guitarist Kenny Brown. Both recordings also adequately capture the feeling of what it must be like to be in Junior Kimbrough's juke joint, where both men played this kind of raw, unadulterated blues for over 30 years. This is the kind of downhome, backporch blues played today as it has been for many decades. In 1996, Burnside teamed with indie-rocker Jon Spencer to cut A Ass Pocket O' Whiskey for the hip Matador label; he returned to Fat Possum in 1998 for the more conventional Come on In. As Burnside had been recording intermittently since the late '60s a spate of re-issues and live recordings began to appear in the 2000's. Chief among them were Mississippi Hill Country Blues, largely recorded in the Netherlands in the 1980s; First Recordings, which gathered 14 of George Mitchell's 1967 field recordings of Burnside in Coldwater, MS; a live set documenting a west coast tour Burnside on Burnside appeared in 2001. His next studio album Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down appeared in 2000 but it would be another 4 years before the next new R.L. Burnside recording Bothered Mind was released. That same year Burnside suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery. He never fully recovered from the attack and in 2005, at the age of 79, R.L. Burnside passed away in a Memphis, TN hospital. ~ Richard Skelly
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Stations Featuring
R.L. Burnside

    Modern Blues

    Modern Blues
    3 songs

    Electric Blues

    Electric Blues
    3 songs

    Acoustic Blues

    Acoustic Blues
    1 song

Albums by
R.L. Burnside

Top Songs by
R.L. Burnside

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Let My Baby Ride
  3.   Chain of Fools
  4.   It's Bad You Know
  5.   Goin' Away Baby
  6.   Jumper on the Line
  7.   Shuck Dub
  8.   Skinny Woman
  9.   Mellow Peaches
  10.   Someday Baby
  11.   Goin' Down South
  12.   Bad Luck City
  13.   Shake 'Em on Down
  14.   Georgia Women
  15.   Go to Jail
  16.   .44 Pistol
  17.   Old Black Mattie
  18.   Out on the Road
  19.   Staggolee
  20.   Charleston Interview
  21.   Detroit Boogie, Pt. 2
  22.   Hobo Blues
  23.   My Name Is Robert Too by Kid Rock
  24.   He Ain't Your Daddy
  25.   Poor Black Mattie
  26.   The Criminal Inside Me
  27.   Long Haired Doney
  28.   Stole My Check
  29.   Glory Be
  30.   Detroit Boogie, Pt. 1
  31.   Bird Without a Feather
  32.   My Time Ain't Long
  33.   Mojo Hand
  34.   My Babe
  35.   Bad Luck Monkey Rap
  36.   Last Night
  37.   Grazing Grass Rap
  38.   My Eyes Keep Me in Trouble
  39.   Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down
  40.   Got Messed Up
  41.   Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues
  42.   I Can't Be Satisfied
  43.   Greyhound Bus Station
  44.   Lost Without Your Love
  45.   Don't Care How Long You're Gone
  46.   See What My Buddy Done
  47.   Gone So Long
  48.   Miss Maybelle
  49.   Everything Is Broken
  50.   Come on In, Pt. 3
  51.   Come on In, Pt. 2
  52.   Just Like a Woman
  53.   Don't Stop Honey
  54.   Been Mistreated
  55.   Bad Luck and Trouble
  56.   Come on In
  57.   Kindhearted Woman Blues
  58.   Meet Me in the Bottom
  59.   Monkey in the Pool Room
  60.   Pretty Woman
  61.   Jumper Hanging Out On the Line
  62.   Begged For a Nickel
  63.   Sitting on Top of the World
  64.   Sound Machine Groove
  65.   Death Bell Blues
  66.   Miss Glory B.
  67.   Peaches
  68.   Fireman Ring the Bell
  69.   When My First Wife Left Me
  70.   Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)
  71.   Tojo Told Hitler
  72.   2 Brothers
  73.   Poor Boy
  74.   Boogie Chillen
  75.   You Gotta Move
  76.   Tribute to Fred
  77.   Highway 7
  78.   Rollin' and Tumblin'
  79.   Alice Mae
  80.   Snake Drive
  81.   Nightmare Blues
  82.   Walkin' Blues
  83.   House upon the Hill
  84.   Too Many Ups
  85.   Can't Let You Go
  86.