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R.L. Burnside – Mr. Wizard

I love me some R.L. Burnside.

And anything else from Fat Possum, too. Dayum!

I was gonna write all this up, and then I read this review on Amazon by ‘A Customer,’ and I laughed and had to share it.

All deference to the other artists mentioned, natch…


“A customer
5.0 out of 5 stars
an unstoppable force of nature
May 25, 1999
Format: Audio CD

There is no other description for it: this CD has BALLS. Burnside unleashes the screaming, vengeful ghost of Elmore James to claim the Delta’s muderous retribution on all the Chicago crap that has passed for “blues” over the last 3 decades. I dream that Buddy Guy, BB King, Eric Clapton, Kenny Wayne Shepard, and all the other popular “blues” guitarists are led to a one room shack surrounded by a blinding cotton field on a dirt road deep, deep in Mississippi. Outside RL and his band tear into the groove of “Alice Mae” with such ferocity it sounds like a freight train loaded with nuclear bombs slamming into a mountain. The blasphemers inside the shack wail and gnash their teeth as they beg for mercy for their terrible sins. RL’s cataclysmic howl of “DID YOU SEE MY BABY?/CALL HER ALICE MAE!” summons a pillar of fire from the black sky to consume the shack and lay waste to the world. That’s what this CD sounds like.”

Oh yeah, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion plays on tracks 2 & 7. Fuck yes.

Pure gold. I own this on CD and on LP. Why do I own two? BECAUSE IT’S R.L., that’s why!

A Sunrise Score

I had a wee dig at our new Sunrise the other night, and came up with a gem.


Oh yes. I do love me some Burnside. This was one I didn’t already have, so I’m thrilled to bring it home.

Check out that price sticker up in the top right corner. $11.99 (CAD) for a brand new LP? That’s awesome! Especially considering I checked the Amazons when I got home and it’s going for $26.19, thus giving me a savings of $14.20! And that’s not including shipping, as they now require $35 before free shipping…

Now, I’d be inclined to think Sunrise had mis-priced this item and I got away with something. But I can also recall buying a Burnside LP at Kops on Bloor in Taranna for about the same price.* So maybe Fat Possum just prices things well so that even with store margins, we win. As a favour to all of us diehard blues fans. Right on, if that’s true, Fat Possum!

Either way, I’m very happy with this addition to the collection. Sunrise scores again!


* I checked, it was a brand new LP of Mr. Wizard for $9.99!

R.L. Burnside – Come On In

R.L. Burnside – Come On Over

Yesterday I blasted A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey and loved every minute. Today, we delve into a bit of a weirder disc.

Making another unpredictable move, Burnside paired with producer Tom Rothrock for this album of remixes of some classic old Burnside tunes. Some of it’s a little jarring, the beats really do change things, but I think it shows the strength of the original material that it all still shines through no matter what.

Come On In (live) is a highlight, just the man and his guitar. But it’s more like the other stuff he’s done, and that’s not really the purpose here. Come On In (part 2) and (part 3) are more in line with the vision for this record, adding beats and grooves.

Rollin’ And Tumblin’ was the release (was it a single?). I first heard it on an old CMJ comp disc. This is full-blown samples, drum machines, loops and effects buoying his original guitar and vocals. It’s impressive, though not what I’d choose to play all the time.

It’s Bad You Know is straight-on dance track, and Shuck Dub sounds like an underwater mix. Heat sounds like a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion outtake (I hope you like drums at the fore). A few others try to walk the middle road between both worlds (Let My Baby Ride, Don’t Stop Honey, Please Don’t Stay, etc).

In Sum: 

This record’s all over the map. At its worst moments, parts of this album reminds of Moby and his messing with samples. At its best, its funky groovy blues make great road trip tunes with a really satisfying pulse. I cannot deny the creativity and adventurousness here. Lots to like, some to skip.

R.L. Burnside – A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey

R.L. Burnside – A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey

Alright, how do you make Aaron blissfully happy? Well, there’s lots of ways. Clearly, Aaron’s enthusiastic about a lot of things. If you’ve spent any time at all in these pages (and if you have we thank you from the cockles of our hearts), you’ll likely have surmised this fact already. Woohoo! Yay! Give ‘er!

Aaron is also, apparently, writing about himself in the third person today. Well isn’t this fun!

But one sure-fire way to make Aaron tingle would be to take blues great R.L. Burnside and put him in a room with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and let them make an entire record.

In one afternoon.

(yeah you read that right.)

Hells yeah, that’d get Aaron’s rocks off. Over and over and over…

And that’s exactly what we have here. Burnside’s inimitable soul blues shout, rangy guitar (not always in tune and who the fuck cares?) and JSBX, rock solid as ever, backing him up. I love it. Love it love it love it to pieces. Love love love.

But enough about Aaron and his sloppy lovin’ crush on this record. Let’s see what Wiki has to say about this period of these two brilliant artist/bands:

Burnside featured in the 1991 documentary Deep Blues. In a New York concert around the film’s release, he attracted the attention of Jon Spencer, the leader of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He started touring with this group in 1995, both as an opening act and sitting in, gaining a new audience. The 1996 album A Ass Pocket of Whiskey was recorded with Jon Spencer’ band and was marketed for their audience, but was credited to Burnside. It gained critical acclaim and praise from Bono and Iggy Pop; while Billboard wrote “it sound like no other blues album ever released,” Living Blues opined it is “perhaps the worst blues album ever made.” His work with Jon Spencer was later cited as an influence by Hillstomp and covered on record by The Immortal Lee County Killers. During this time he also provided entertainment at private events such as Richard Gere’s birthday party.

“…perhaps the worst blues abum ever made”? Living Blues, apparently, has a total doofus on their staff. Imagine.

How about the Amazonians?

Recorded in one afternoon in the Holly Springs, Mississippi, hometown of 69-year-old blues great R.L. Burnside, A Ass Pocket of Whiskey documents a single noisy, spirited session with Burnside, his sideman Kenny Brown, and the punk-bred blues reconstructionist trio called the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The pairing of JSBE, led by a white Ivy League dropout turned downtown New York scuz who poses as a hard-living blues rocker, and R.L. Burnside, the last of the real down-home badass bluesmen of the Mississippi hills, is strange–perhaps sacrilege to blues purists–but oddly appropriate. And the moments of pure musical chaos caught on this record–both cross-cultural and cross-generational–sound entirely within the realm of both acts. With its unorthodox accompaniment (including wheezy theremin and Spencer’s trademark shouts), the album is probably not the most fitting introduction to Burnside. But as the oldest man ever to record for the hip indie-rockers at Matador, no doubt he gladly sacrificed juke-joint obscurity for the chance to appear on MTV’s 120 Minutes–Roni Sarig”

Sacrilege? Haha no. Also, Roni (if that even is your real name), I’m sure he thought it was a lark, not a late-life chance at being on fucking MTV. Or maybe he did, and good on him. If so, I hope he got girls and whiskey and whatever else he wanted.

Look, it’s simple.

If you already have this crash-bangin’ ass-kickin’ blues stomp of a brilliant record, you already know what I mean (and can I get a HELL YEAH? HELL YEAH!).

If you don’t have this album, Aaron just wants to know one thing: why the fuck NOT? Get in there and get it. Go!

Dammit, even the cover art is perfect:

a ass pocket of whiskey

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