R.L. Burnside

Mississippi Hill Country Blues

BY Chris WodskouPublished May 1, 2001

You can stroke out those references to R.L. Burnside being discovered by Jon Spencer. Back in the late '70s, when Burnside's Stateside notoriety was limited to being a local character in rural Mississippi and long before Spencer's Pussy Galone, let alone the Blues Explosion, was a going concern, Burnside was already making inroads with a European audience. Ever the connoisseurs of Americana, the Europeans cottoned on to Burnside's country-blues shouting and moaning, which led to Mississippi Hill Country Blues, originally released in the Netherlands in 1982. Taking this album as evidence, this was well before Burnside had devolved into the side-show act trying to crossover into a handful of under-35 demographics that he's become on recent albums that have given him remix treatments or tried to recast him as a soul singer. Still, in its own way this is a rawer album than his heavily electrified collaborations with Spencer - aside from a few harmonica fills, it's Burnside hollering away on Delta blues traditionals to the accompaniment of a lonely acoustic guitar. It's Burnside in what has come to be an uncharacteristically pure blues setting, making his kinship with the likes of John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Nighthawk more immediate than even his raucous version of Hooker's "Boogie Chillen."
(Fat Possum)

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