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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Poor Boy - RL Burnside


R. L. Burnside (November 23, 1926 – September 1, 2005), born Robert Lee Burnside, was an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist who lived much of his life in and around Holly Springs, Mississippi. He played music for much of his life, but did not receive much attention until the early 1990s. In the latter half of the 1990s, Burnside repeatedly recorded with Jon Spencer, garnering crossover appeal and introducing his music to a new fan base within the underground garage rock scene.

One commentator noted that Burnside, along with Big Jack Johnson, Paul "Wine" Jones, Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes and James "Super Chikan" Johnson, were "present-day exponents of an edgier, electrified version of the raw, uncut Delta blues sound."
In the 1990s, he appeared in the film Deep Blues and began recording for the Oxford, Mississippi, label Fat Possum Records. Founded by Living Blues magazine editor Peter Redvers-Lee and Matthew Johnson, the label was dedicated to recording aging North Mississippi bluesmen such as Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.

Burnside remained with Fat Possum from that time until his death, and he usually performed with drummer Cedric Burnside, his grandson, and with his friend and understudy, the slide guitarist Kenny Brown, with whom he began playing in 1971 and claimed as his "adopted son."

In the mid 1990s, Burnside attracted the attention of Jon Spencer, the leader of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, touring and recording with this group and gaining a new audience in the process.

Burnside's 1996 album A Ass Pocket of Whiskey (recorded with Jon Spencer) gained massive critical acclaim, earning praise from music legends Bono and Iggy Pop. During this time he also provided the entertainment at private events such Richard Gere's birthday party.

After the death of Kimbrough and the burning of Kimbrough's juke joint in Chulahoma, Mississippi, Burnside quit recording studio material for Fat Possum, though he did continue to tour. After a heart attack in 2001, Burnside's doctor advised him to stop drinking; Burnside did, but he reported that change left him unable to play.
Burnside at the Double Door Inn in Charlotte, N.C. in 1998

Members of his large extended family continue to play blues in the Holly Springs area: grandson Cedric Burnside tours with Kenny Brown and most recently with Steve 'Lightnin' Malcolm as part of the 'Juke Joint Duo', while his son Duwayne Burnside has played guitar with the North Mississippi Allstars (Polaris; Hill Country Revue with R. L. Burnside). Nephew Garry Burnside used to play bass guitar with Junior Kimbrough and in 2006 released an album with Cedric. In 2004, the Burnside sons opened Burnside Blues Cafe, located 30 miles southeast of Memphis at the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and Mississippi Highway 7 in Holly Springs.
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