There's been a lot of releases lately featuring the Mississippi trance-blues master. The good news is that these 16 tracks are archival, recorded between 1986-93. Consequently, Burnsides hpyno-groove mono-chord guitar is prominent, instead of mixed-down or absent altogether as on the recent Fat Possum attempts to hit the cross-over market. Most of the tunes are done solo, either live and electric in concert, or acoustic at home, taped on a boombox.
There are two tracks cut with drums in a shed in Holland in 1993, and seven cut with harp player Jon Morris, four in concert in 1986 in Charleston. Morris had traveled with Burnside playing a few months each year between 1980-94, in the US and Europe, and kept a box of tapes made on their travels.
Most of the tunes are covers of Burnside's favorite bluesmen: a sweet slide version of Muddys "I Cant Be Satisfied", an uptempo "Rolling & Tumbling", a rocking cover of Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" as well as 3 Howling Wolf numbers--check the intense vocal of "How Many More Years". Burnside also visits Little Walter's "My Babe" and "Last Night", Jimmy Rogers "Going Away Baby", Lightning Hopkins "Nightmare Blues" and Big Joe Williams "Mellow Peaches". And no Burnside survey would be complete without his own signature number "Going Down South" (done here with his funky band).
There is a brief interview section and a couple of monologues: "Staggolee" is done as traditional "toast" a pre-rap story-telling form with bawdy rhyming phrases. Burnside adds guitar fills behind his lines and comes up with a darkly humorous version of the bad-man ballad. "Bad Luck Monkey Rap" is another story-tale told during a drinking session in New Orleans with Morris and singer Curtis Salgado--Burnsides gentle irony is well displayed. Morris's harp playing comes in fits and starts, he smears random note clusters here and there, has a decent vibrato, and basically doesn't get in the way too much.
What makes Burnside unique is his simple, but driving, guitar integrated with his strong and persuasive vocals--that's well displayed here. If the hip-hop influence and "guest-stars" on his recent releases have annoyed you, here's the real thing, sounding tough.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tony Glover, 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.
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