So, I declare the holiday hiatus over, and the festivities to begin! If only the RIDICULOUS 9:30 Club stamp on my hand (it's the biggest one I think I've ever had from them, it practically covers the entire back of my hand) would fade away so my 50-year-old coworkers would stop thinking I'm an insane nightfreak. That said, I want to bring attention to a certain RL Burnside album that I got over the Holidays. There's been a lot of effort generally to incorporate the blues thoroughly into modern music, despite its nearly ancient beginnings before the turn of the century, and even further since it's essentially a folk music. There was the blues rock of the 60s, with Hendrix
that showed how blues and psychedelic rock could be fused in a way that made the two nearly synonymous. Recent bands like The White Stripes, The Black Keys,
and The Blues Explosion
also have welded blues, punk, and grunge together like a patchwork quilt of noise and skill. (Interesting aside: none of those bands have bassists. . .and neither does RL when he's on tour. . .influence? I think so). Moby
even created a way dance and blues could combine with his latest albums Play
, dredging up muddy blues samples along with vicious techno keyboard samples and electronic drums.
Recently there's even been a huge revival of old blues and blues fusion, with Fat Possum Records
doing nicely by pushing some neo-blues acts like the aforementioned Black Keys, Entrance, Heartless and scores of blues dinosaurs like T-model Ford and Jimmy Lee Williams who have pracitcally come back from the dead. In some way or another, RL Burnside
has been part of all of this, either in influencing or participating in the careers of others, or in his own.
RL's style was neither Mississippi Delta (though he's certainly VERY MUCH from Mississippi), or Chicago blues. It was the punk blues, even from when he had his basically first life back in the 60s. The blues RL played was fast and raucous, not a slow shuffle or anything that followed standard 12 bar blues progressions. He had some things in common with John Lee Hooker's
raw sound, but took it to futher extremes, playing his blues and chords with a rock-like speed but an unmistakable blues and country twang to it. He experienced a revival in the late 90s, beginning with Ass Pocket of Whiskey
, a 1996 collaboration with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. RL dropped another bomb in 1998, with Come On In.
This album sounds at times like Moby's album Play,
which was roughly contemporaneous. It involves lots of fusing RL vocal samples and guitars with techno beats and DJ scratching. Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down
followed, and was similar but a little more laidback. Both those albums are great, and I own both, but in the end they didn't feel quite as genuine as Whiskey because they sounded like some DJs and Producers just got a hold of old RL albums, sampled like crazy, and then tossed them out. In 2001 a real treat dropped, the live disc Burnside on Burnside, a collection of RL playing live with his touring band Kenny Brown and his grandson, Cedric Burnside.
The new album is A Bothered Mind
. And it is, without a doubt, my favorite RL Burnside album. This album carries RL's blues-fusion efforts forward, and it doesn't take guest spots from hip hop producer extraordinaire Lyrics Born
and Superstar/Complete Hack Kid Rock
to figure that out. But this doesn't go as far into the tweaky, slick world of Come On In
but instead surrounds RL with bigger bands, including keyboards, a scratching DJ, more guitarists, and on some cuts a second drummer. The sound unmistakably brings a lot of hip hop, rock, and funk into RL's mix. The difference between that and previous albums is that this has a real intermingled band feel to it, not simply one of production samples and artificial insertions. "Glory Be", "Stole My Check," and "Go To Jail" are amazing examples of how much is added when a steady hip hop beat thumps below R.L.'s jagged guitar chords and a wah wah guitar or two glides around for flavor. The overall sound produced is like a country funk that hits rowdy and fresh, and beats out any produced effort by a slick producer to create bluesy and countrified hip hop through samples by forging the genuine article. It's music arranged made, and sung by a blues dinosaur using modern sounds through and through.
Lyrics Born's two tracks, revamps of "Goin Down South" and "Someday Baby" show him getting just as down and dirty as RL, sounding downright like he stepped out of the Dirty South in "Someday Baby." Kid Rock even does his best to be classy, which he almost pulls off. A Bothered Mind is definitely a treat, not just to anyone who likes blues, but to anyone who likes any of the multiple genres it crosses and mingles.