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Mississippi Hill Country Blues

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Album Review

It's a pleasure to hear R.L. Burnside's early acoustic blues played the way he learned them in the hill country of Northern Mississippi. Three of these tracks date from 1967 and were recorded in Coldwater, MS by folklorist George Mitchell, while the remaining 16 were recorded in the early '80s by Swingmaster operator Leo Bruin in Groningen, Netherlands. This is Burnside playing solo (and mainly) acoustic country blues with the only addition to his guitar and voice being the harmonica of Red Ramsey on "Rolling and Tumbling." While you can't go wrong with the purchase of any Burnside recording, these Swingmaster sessions portray a natural relaxed unaccompanied Burnside. Recorded long before the mid-'90s, Fat Possum releases would find him playing in an electric band with his son and son-in-law and occasionally experimenting with sampling and indie rock leanings.

Customer Reviews

Essential, latter day, delta Blues...

R.L. Burnside was the first blues guy I saw live. This was back in the early '90s, when I was listening to indie rock and grunge. Some way, some how, I think he got hooked up with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - they either had him tour with them, or gave him enough press that people started exploring who he was.

Needless to say, everyone discovered a living legend. He'd been putting stuff out on Alligator (or Fat Possum?) Records for some time, I believe, but its a small, regional label (the same that put out Junior Kimbrough), and by then, the blues had become a dinosaur... Almost.

Much like Ted Hawkins in his later days, Mr. Burnside enjoyed a blast of recognition from a younger audience before his death, and it led to some recordings on Epitaph, a label known for their punk rock offerings (Bad Religion, NOFX, etc). His later, electric albums weren't quite as strong as the stuff he'd put out Alligator, but it did introduce a whole new generation to this treasure.

This album is essential for anyone who loves roots blues, stripped down to its essential core. You hear the joy and a lifetime of dedication to a dying craft captured in these recordings. One of the true must buys of the Blues genre, and a latter day classic.


Born: November 23, 1926 in Oxford, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

North Mississippi guitarist R.L. Burnside was one of the paragons of state-of-the-art Delta juke joint blues. The guitarist, singer and songwriter was born November 23, 1926 in Oxford, MS, and made his home in Holly Springs, in the hill country above the Delta. He lived most of his life in the Mississippi hill country, which, unlike the Delta region, consists mainly of a lot of small farms. He learned his music from his neighbor, Fred McDowell, and the highly rhythmic style that Burnside plays is...
Full Bio