Slacker Logo


R.L. Burnside

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
Read More Read Less

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