It was George Mitchell who brought R.L. Burnside to the attention of the listening blues audiences back in 1967. A researcher, Mitchell also recorded Burnside at that time and three tunes on this release come from that Coldwater Mississippi encounter. The rest of the material dates to recording sessions in the Netherlands dating back to 1980, 1982, and 1984. This material was subsequently released by the Netherlands' Swingmaster label in '84 as Swingmaster 2201. With only artwork changes, this is a reissue of that material by Fat Possum Records.
Already a champion in that label's stable, Burnside has nurtured an ever-increasing audience throughout the 1990s. This release, then is particularly important in showing the earlier development of the artist. Inasmuch, the cuts and performances found here do represent a cross section of his style depicting the influences of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, and the regional teachings of Ranie Burnette and Fred McDowell. The heavily rhythmatic syncopation of their particular styles is, and remains, evident in Burnside's work here and later.
The nineteen tunes on this plate are solo acoustic renditions along with some duet work featuring Red Ramsey on the harmonica. The tunes are traditional covers and standards that carry the individual arrangements of R. L.. Outstanding cuts abound; some like "Rollin' And Tumblin'", "Shake 'Em On Down", and "Poor Black Mattie" remain staples of his repertoire. Others like "Jumper On The Line" "Skinny Woman", and "Miss Mabelle" push the strong beats and enlivened vocal content.
This acoustic rendering by Burnside shows the roots of his electrified hypnotic beatsthat are heard today. Much in the manner of his mentors; these are blues with feeling, blues with tradition, and individual blues by Mississippi's R.L. Burnside. Powerful music that hardly reached American shores or audiences; this release deserved reissue!
Fat Possum Records; P.O. Box 1923; Oxford, MS 38655: or, www.fatpossum.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.