Wednesday, July 10, 2013

R.L. Burnside - Mississippi Hill Country Blues

R.L. Burnside, born in 1926, was a Mississippi blues guitarist who didn't gain notoriety until the late 80's/early 90's when releases began appearing on punk rock labels such as Epitaph and he began recording with the likes of Jon Spencer.

Rule, as friends called him, picked up guitar in his early 20's after being inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen". He learned some of his style from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who he also played with, and cited his cousin-in-law, Muddy Waters as an influence. He moved to Chicago in the mid-40's - no doubt in the hopes of starting his own musical career - but things didn't work out as planned - to say the least. His father, 2 brothers and an uncle were all murdered there within a year and Burnside eventually moved back to Mississippi, where he killed a man during a dice game and spent 6 months in prison. He then settled down and while he continued to play music locally, he didn't really receive much attention until his recordings in the 80's and 90's.

This CD is his first 80's recordings, initially released by Fat Possum and distributed by Epitaph as he became more well known. This has many of the acoustic blues numbers that have become associated with him, especially "Lost Without Your Love", done as "Bird Without a Feather" in the movie Black Snake Moan. These are traditional numbers from his area in Mississippi arranged by Burnside and played with verve and vigor, sounding every bit like an original, early country blues man that he is. He is at home with or without a slide and the recording has a great sound, giving it an intimate feeling - that cliche of him being in the room with you.

Burnside later did some more experimental work that wasn't quite as artistically successful (for me), although it heightened his popularity. But here he is playing pure blues and it is pretty damn fine!