A CD by R.L. Burnside.

R.L. Is an Old-school (born in 1926) Mississippi blues vocalist who was "discovered" by the indie rock intelligentsia in the early nineties.

I became aware of him through this amazing album, published in 2000 by Fat Possum Records. It is absolutely breathtaking.

This is true gut and bone blues in the finest of the tradition, but it incorporates scratching, looping, and sampling in a way that is not the least bit "cute". In fact, they sound as natural an extension of blues instrumentation as the electric guitar.

There is a theme to this collection - the murders of R.L.'s father, uncle, and two brothers in Chicago in the fifties. It carries the weight of that theme, but in true Blues fashion, it brings along humor, sex, and the sheer joy of its own sonic being.


The Songs:
All vocals by R.L. Burnside

Hard Time Killing Floor
Written by Skip James
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Bass: Antony Glenn
Drums: Steve Mugallian
Wurlitzer: Martin Slattery
Scratching: DJ Pete B

This is a sad, slow vocal tour de force. R.L. talks and sings about his father and brothers.

Got Messed Up
Written by Andy Kaulkin
Loops: Iki Levy, Brad Cook
Guitars: Smokey Hormel
Keys: Andy Kaulkin
Harp & Bkg Vocals: Johny Dyer
Scratching: DJ Swamp

"Been here too long, and I seen too much. I got messed up."

Miss Maybelle
Written by R.L. Burnside
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Bass: Jeff Turmes
Drums: Steve Mugallian
Piano: Andy Kaulkin
Scratching: DJ Swamp

Here's an upbeat one. Almost a jug band tune, if it weren't for the aggressive scratching of DJ Swamp. Stomp your feet and shake it.

Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

Guitar: Kenny Brown

This is the one track that has a strictly traditional arrangement. You can't argue with Burnsides' vocal mastery. It's a good blues, but it leaves me pinin' for the funky mix trix...

Too Many Ups
Written by R.L. Burnside and Andy Kaulkin
Loops: Iki Levy
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Bass: Jeff Turmes
Drums: Steve Mugallian
Wurlitzer: Andy Kaulkin
Sample of "Fife & Drum Piece" taken from album:
"Travelling Through the Jungle" (Testament Records #5017)

Was it some funk I was missing? Here it is.

Nothin' Man
Written by: David Andrews
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Bass: Jeff Turmes
Drums: Steve Mugallian
Wurlitzer: Tommy Eyre
Loops: Iki Levy

"You can't arrest me. I pay rent here." "I never wanted to be a criminal." "I wish my mama would have loved me." "It never was my fault." LOL!

See What My Buddy Done
Written by R.L. Burnside
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Bass: Jeff Turmes
Drums: Steve Mugallian
Piano: Andy Kaulkin

If you're wondering what it was he done, well, he shot his baby, of course. This one sounds kind of like The Doors, except for R.L.'s voice.

My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble
Written by R.L. Burnside
Guitar: John Porter
Mandolin: John Porter
Bass: John Porter
Loops: Iki Levy & Brad Cook

"I want women on my left. Women on my right. Women all day, and women all night."

Bad Luck City
Written by R.L. Burnside/J. Puckett/J. Lewis
Loops: Iki Levy & Brad Cook
Guitar: John Porter
Bass: John Porter
Wurlitzer: Tommy Eyre
Synth: Andy Kaulkin
Scratching: DJ Swamp

R.L sings high on this one. It's amazing. A love song

Chain of Fools
Written by Don Covay
Loops: Iki Levy
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Guitar: John Porter
Drums: Steve Mugallian
Harp: Lynwood Slim
Scratching: DJ Swamp
Bkg Vocals Janiva Magness, Billy Valentine

Yes, "Chain chain chain". Listen. He pulls it off.

R.L.'s Story
Written by R.L. Burnside and Antony Glenn
Guitars: Smokey Hormel, Rick Holstrom
Scratching: DJ Pete B

This is not really a song. R.L. tells the story of his father, two uncles, and two brothers' misfortunes in Chicago in a conversational voice, just like you and he were sitting at the bar. Smoky, Rick, and Pete provide a spookily dramatic backdrop.


There are three more tracks on the CD, but they are not mentioned in the liner notes. The first two may be R.L. at a much younger age, but the third sounds like someone else.

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