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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.
Up until the mid-'80s, Burnside was primarily a farmer and fisherman. After getting some attention in the late '60s via folklorists George Mitchell (Mitchell recorded him for the Arhoolie label), he recorded for the Vogue, Swingmaster and Highwater record labels. 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 put out 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. His 2004 release, A Bothered Mind, now reissued on LP, showcases Burnside's version of the blues — powerful, visceral, and — this is often overlooked — playful, with his almost demonic chuckle being as recognizable a feature of his music as any guitar lick.
"A Bothered Mind is perhaps the most ideally representative of all of Burnside's albums, ranging from solo acoustic tracks to crunching boogie struts, all with a light dose of hip-hop and enough scratching and looping effects to make this clearly an album from the 21st century. Amazingly, it all works as a cohesive whole, opening with a 38-second live fragment of 'Detroit Boogie' (in which Burnside intones 'I do what I want...'), and then closing with the full version. In between these bookends, the album — aside from the rather contrived Kid Rock track, "My Name Is Robert Too" — is continually fascinating, and it never stops churning." — All Music Guide
|Detroit Boogie Part 1|
|See What My Buddy Done|
|Shake ‘Em on Down|
|Goin’ Down South featuring Lyrics Born|
|My Name Is Robert Lee featuring Kid Rock|
|Someday Baby featuring Lyrics Born|
|Go to Jail|
|Bird Without a Feather|
|Goin’ Away Baby|
|Rollin’ and Tumblin’|
|Stole My Check|
|Detroit Boogie Part 2|