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