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« Epstein on Sex at the Movies | Main | Whither the Feminists? »

September 08, 2005

R.L. Burnside

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I just learned, a couple of days late, that the ornery and very raw Mississippi Hill Country bluesman R.L. Burnside has died at the age of 78. Though I never saw Burnside perform in person, I've seen him in a couple of movies, and I've spent time addicted to a number of his CDs. I'm a fan, and I'm very sorry he isn't casting his devil-doll spell among us any longer.

burnside0102.jpg
R.L. Burnside, 1926-2005

Burnside's music is harsh, guttural, trance-inducing stuff -- one-chord jam sessions that are like bulletins from a more primal, funky dimension than anything anyone living has ever known. If the music on this soul-blistering disc doesn't make you break out the hooch and throw your friends an all-night house party, then it can only be because you don't have a pulse. As one Amazon user-reviewer wrote: "'Too Bad Jim' will inspire you to drink bad bourbon and curse around children." High praise!

Here's a recent interview with the growly, lowdown old man -- get a load of his drink of choice. Burnside's record company, Fat Possum Records, issues a lot of first-class rootsy blues. Fat Possum's Matthew Johnson tells CNN that Burnside never wanted a music career, and never practiced his guitar either.

A fun, small detail: R.L. lived near the charming, out-of-another-era small town of Holly Springs, Miss. -- the same town that was the setting for the wonderfully soulful Robert Altman film "Cookie's Fortune." The Wife and I spent an afternoon in Holly Springs a few years ago, fell in love with the place, and have been plotting to make our way back ever since.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at September 8, 2005




Comments

I read the obit in a couple of places.

Not to familiar with his music. Thanks for pointing me in his direction.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 9, 2005 07:25 AM



I was lucky enough to see him in concert during that brief window when he toured.

Posted by: Marilyn on September 9, 2005 08:16 AM



Well, if you liked Mr. Burnside, you may like Junior Kimbraugh (also on Fat Possum records). He plays and sings like R.L. Burnside's nasty pissed-off brother, angry at the world and all the people in it. You could access his cd's here : http://www.fatpossum.com/artists/junior.html

I played his version of "Crawling King Snake" from "Sad Days, Lonely Nights" and had a listener call in to ask me to cease and desist 'cuz "this guy is too damn depressing. I want some uppity blues."
So, if you play any Kimbrough cd, be sure to have an Elvin Bishop cd handy to take you out of the muck of despair Kimbrough's put you in.

Posted by: DarkoV on September 9, 2005 10:10 AM



ST -- I bet you'll enjoy Burnside. If you give him a try, let me know you respond.

Marilyn -- How was he live? I'd love to have had the R.L. experience at a genuine juke joint. On the other hand, I don't know if I'd have made it out alive, pasty Northerner that I am.

DarkoV -- I like Junior too. And you're right -- he's even more cranky and dark than R.L. is. Have you caught the documentary I linked to in the posting? The one called "You See Me Laughin"? Junior's a major presence in it. And he's genuinely a major presence -- the man took up a lot of room, and had a very good opinion of his talents. But I've got a lot of Fat Possum-exploring yet to do. Have you got any other faves from their list?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 9, 2005 10:21 AM



Too Bad Jim is an AWESOME album - much better than the Come On In-era "technofied" stuff - that's well worth picking up.

Posted by: John on September 9, 2005 10:36 AM



I've been reading posts here for awhile but have never posted. This New Yorker article on Burnside, T-Model Ford, and Fat Possum's is fun reading in case you missed it.
http://www.nothinbutdablues.com/BluesNews/2002/Page13.html#Top

Posted by: Sam on September 9, 2005 01:40 PM



SAD,SAD NEWS, I NEVER GOT TO SEE MR BURNSIDE PLAY, BUT I HAVE EVERYTHING HE HAS DONE,I PLAY AMP'D UP HARP AND MY MATE PLAYS SLIDE ON AN OLD OZARK STEEL GUITAR, THE DEVIL QUAKES IN HIS BOOTS WHEN WE PLAY, AND ITS ALL THANX TO THOSE COOL CATS AT FAT POSSUM AND MOST OF ALL MR R L BURNSIDE. WE PLANNIN AT TRIP TO THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI NEXT YEAR. BLESS YOU RL, AND ALL YOUR FAMILY. LOOK OUT FAT POSSUM, WE COMIN YOUR WAY BABY. GREZ.X

Posted by: GREZ IN UK on September 20, 2005 03:17 PM






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