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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

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