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A Bothered Mind

R.L. Burnside

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Album Review

When R.L. Burnside and the rest of the Fat Possum confederation emerged from the northern Mississippi hills in the early '90s, they gave contemporary blues a much-needed shot in the ass, reminding everyone that the genre really wasn't so much about pyrotechnic guitar histrionics as it was about getting folks to hit the dancefloor, and once there, making sure they stayed. Burnside in particular has been a fascinating and intriguing musician ever since, and even as he cruises through his eighties, he may well be the most progressive and postmodern of anyone on the current blues scene. Although his basic template is and remains a John Lee Hooker-like modal boogie shuffle, Burnside has combined it with full-tilt garage and punk band dynamics (1996's A Ass Pocket of Whiskey, with the raucous backing of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) and controversial (to blues purists) techno nation hip-hop effects (1998's Come On In, featuring Beck mixmaster Tom Rothrock), and while these experiments haven't always worked, they show a playful willingness to treat the blues as something fun and vital, not some dusty, nostalgic period music trotted out on display from the music museum. No, Burnside's version of the blues is powerful, visceral, and — this is often overlooked — playful, with his almost demonic chuckle being as recognizable a feature of his music as any guitar lick.

A Bothered Mind is perhaps the most ideally representative of all of Burnside's albums, ranging from solo acoustic tracks to crunching boogie struts, all with a light dose of hip-hop and enough scratching and looping effects to make this clearly an album from the 21st century. Amazingly, it all works as a cohesive whole, opening with a 38-second live fragment of "Detroit Boogie" (in which Burnside intones "I do what I want..."), and then closing with the full version. In between these bookends, the album — aside from the rather contrived Kid Rock track, "My Name Is Robert Too" — is continually fascinating, and it never stops churning. The most striking track is also the earliest and simplest, a solo acoustic version of "Bird Without a Feather" that was field recorded by folklorist George Mitchell in 1968. Two tracks here, the umpteenth version of Burnside's signature "Goin' Down South" and "Someday Baby," were produced by Lyrics Born (T. Shimura) of the Quannum collective, and he gives both songs a delightful hip-hop sheen without sacrificing one bit of Burnside's irascible swagger. The rap interlude Lyrics Born delivers on "Someday Baby" is nothing less than a second-cousin update of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Perhaps the most surprising song here is "Glory Be," which finds Burnside exploring some more new territory, this time inventing a kind of Saturday night juke joint gospel. Listen for R.L.'s chuckle all through these tracks. He's having fun. He's pushing the blues forward, all without changing a beat. He's making relevant albums when musicians half his age are washed up and creatively exhausted. Is he trying to say that rap is the new blues? Mostly he's just trying to keep that dancefloor filled.

Customer Reviews

A Bothered Mind

This is an excellent effort by R.L. Burnside. His voice sounds lived in and authentic with plenty of energy. Unlike Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down, the production on this album is toned down quite a bit, which serves to put the talents of the artists front and center, and boy do they deliver. Great songs, stomping drum beats, unusual bass work, and top notch guitar work. I need to get more information about who was singing with RL on some of the songs, but several of the songs had additional vocalists that brought great energy. (All but Kidd Rock's song--which I couldn't stand.) The record effectively brings together different sounds such as blues and hip-hop and even a bit of spiritual, but with R.L. at the helm you know it's going to be a fun ride, and this record is no exception. R.L. truly was one of a kind, and I think this is exactly the type of record he would be proud of as his last. God bless'em.

R.L. Burnside R.I.P.

The song Someday Baby is one of my favorite blues songs ever and Lyrics Born's rapping gives the song a new dimension so that a fan of just about any genre of music could appreciate it. The rest of the album is good as well, specifically My Name Is Robert Too, Go to Jail, and the more traditional blues of Bird Without a Feather. Also, R.L. killed a guy before musicians (rappers) started bragging about homicide, he was the real deal. RIP

Full-on, foot-stompin

This album has at least 5 songs on it that are worth $10 each to own: "Goin' Down South"(solid, catchy hook), "Someday Baby" (such a KILLER RIFF on that one), "Goin' Away Baby" (picks up steam right at the beginning and just rolls out), "Rollin' and Tumblin'", and his total gem of a duet with Kid Rock, "My Name is Robert Too" (One of the rare songs Kid Rock has allowed to be sold on iTunes - it f'ing ROCKS. Get it.) R.L.'s voice is deep and gritty and full of the grizzled old-man blues that can only come with a life of really LIVING the Blues. The man's music becomes more and more classic with every day that goes by - they don't make them like R.L. Burnside anymore. In fact, they haven't made them for a while and they are dying off faster than WWII vets. Thank god they left behind music like this.

Biography

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