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R.L. Burnside

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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

    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.   Skinny Woman
  8.   Mellow Peaches
  9.   Shuck Dub
  10.   Someday Baby
  11.   Shake 'Em on Down
  12.   Rollin' and Tumblin'
  13.   Too Many Ups
  14.   Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues
  15.   Fireman Ring the Bell
  16.   Short Haired Woman
  17.   Long Haired Doney
  18.   Bird Without a Feather
  19.   Just Like a Bird Without a Feather
  20.   My Eyes Keep Me in Trouble
  21.   Been Mistreated
  22.   Bad Luck and Trouble
  23.   Pretty Woman
  24.   Searching For My Baby
  25.   Jumper Hanging Out On the Line
  26.   Death Bell Blues
  27.   Tojo Told Hitler
  28.   Boogie Chillen
  29.   You Gotta Move
  30.   Snake Drive
  31.   Goin' Down South
  32.   Alice Mae
  33.   Mojo Hand
  34.   Charleston Interview
  35.   2 Brothers
  36.   Poor Black Mattie
  37.   Stole My Check
  38.   Glory Be
  39.   Go to Jail
  40.   My Name Is Robert Too by Kid Rock
  41.   Detroit Boogie, Pt. 1
  42.   He Ain't Your Daddy
  43.   My Babe
  44.   Bad Luck Monkey Rap
  45.   Last Night
  46.   Grazing Grass Rap
  47.   Staggolee
  48.   How Many More Years
  49.   Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down
  50.   Got Messed Up
  51.   I Can't Be Satisfied
  52.   I Believe
  53.   Crying Won't Make Me Stay
  54.   Greyhound Bus Station
  55.   Lost Without Your Love
  56.   Don't Care How Long You're Gone
  57.   See What My Buddy Done
  58.   Gone So Long
  59.   Miss Maybelle
  60.   Everything Is Broken
  61.   Sat Down on My Bed and Cried
  62.   Come on In, Pt. 3
  63.   Please Don't Stay
  64.   Just Like a Woman
  65.   Don't Stop Honey
  66.   Come on In
  67.   Meet Me in the Bottom
  68.   Hobo Blues
  69.   Can't Let You Go
  70.   Sitting on Top of the World
  71.   Sound Machine Groove
  72.   Bad Luck City
  73.   Shake, Little Baby
  74.   .44 Pistol
  75.   Miss Glory B.
  76.   Peaches
  77.   Old Black Mattie
  78.   When My First Wife Left Me
  79.   Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)
  80.   The Criminal Inside Me
  81.   Poor Boy
  82.   Tribute to Fred
  83.   Highway 7
  84.   Out on the Road
  85.   Georgia Women
  86.   Over the Hill
  87.   Nightmare Blues
  88.   Walkin' Blues
  89.   Kindhearted Woman Blues
  90.