Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Bothered Mind

R.L. Burnside, born in 1926, died in 2005 after a long decline in heath that ended almost all public performances several years earlier. While not as famous as, say Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters, Burnside had a prolific career and his records speak for themselves. His astonishing final recording, A Bothered Mind (2004), released on the Fat Possum label, is a signpost to what the always evolving blues can become. Fat Possum also recorded Cedell Davis, a similarly amazing contemporary delta bluesman who makes his Epiphone hollowbody scream by using a butterknife for a slide.

Burnside's life is the stuff of blues legend. My favorite bit from the wikipedia biography is this:
In around 1959 he left Chicago and went back to Mississippi to work the farms and raise a family. Burnside claimed to have been convicted for murder and sentenced to six months' incarceration for the crime. Burnside's boss at the time reputedly pulled strings to keep the murder sentence short, due to having need of Burnside's skills as a tractor driver. "I didn't mean to kill nobody," Burnside later said. "I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord."
I just came across Burnside's delta blues meets the Funkadelics and the Beastie Boys final recording a few days ago, and I've been telling everyone I know to drop whatever they're doing and buy the damn record. Burnside died an old man, but he did this in his late-seventies. I just wish he'd had ten more years to take us where he was headed.

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