The newest addition to the required Adelphi/Genes’ Blues Vault Series is this acoustic recording made by Burnside when he was still a young man working as a Mississippi sharecropper. With a full life behind him and a more remarkable one just ahead, Burnside traveled to Memphis to record the music he loved for the Adelphi film and sound crew, just after the cotton harvest of 1969. With occasional backing from friends Jesse Vortis on second guitar and Red Ramsey on harmonica, Burnside delivers a powerful acoustic performance, steeped in the folklore and traditions of his home.
Burnside, 73, is a welcome anomaly in the blues world: he’s an old guitarist from Mississippi trained by the great Mississippi Fred McDowell, but was only "discovered" and stays far removed from tedious conventions. He draws inspiration from such luminaries as Muddy Waters and Elmore James, but he reaches for their spirits instead of trying to match their guitar solos.
Burnside, who performed for years as a regional star in local juke joints, is a master of the sloppy blues groove; he plays it over and over, approximating John Lee Hooker’s classic boogie style and mumbling vocal delivery, building tension until something explodes in the music.
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This review is copyright © 2000 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.