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