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