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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

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