Thursday, November 8, 2007

Digging in the Dark:: R.L.Burnside A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey

Wow. Back to back great pulls to start this section. I first saw blues legend R.L. Burnside @ the first festival I ever attended. Being from Halifax, the closest thing to a big Festival that we knew about was when old washed up bands would head to Parlee Beach and people would freak the eff out. As a result, when the Beasties headlined a show in Barrie Ontario and my ticket said 1PM, I thought I had to be there at 1PM on the nose.

So I drove all night, directly from school (24 hours) to get there for 12:30. We polished off two OEs in the parking lot and walked in expecting to see the Boys. Instead, there were about 7 shit bands on the opening stage and we found out Tribe Called Quest canceled and in their place was Biz Markie and the Northern Touch Allstars. Not exactly fat chopped liver, but that meant no Get It Together and a lot of horrid music.

I ended up falling asleep in the middle of the field suffering through these horrible bands until Ricky Powell took the stage. He jumped on stage to introduce R.L. with the bold claim, "this man is the only reason I am here today." In reality, he was hawking autographed photos of the Beasties for like 4 bills, so I think he might have been exaggerating.

R.L. came out wearing a Cape Breton tuxedo - huge plaid shirt, work pants and a trucker hat - and being a naïve, young lad I assumed he was going to be mud. He proceeded to sit down and absolutely kill it. The huge drums he added to his blues guitar and songs about drinking, cheating and stealing had the crowd moving. I wasn't really used to live music at the time, so hearing him just yell out "YEAH" in the middle of the song and the energy flying around the stage was something I'll never forget.

Over the next few weeks, I grabbed as many R.L. records as I could find and started trying to see him every where I could. The highlight was seeing him open for Galactic at an after Jazzfest show, but each time I saw him he completely tore the stage apart without even standing up.

R.L. is a musician's musician, and on A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey his backing band is no other than the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The record was recorded in 1996, and still flew by unnoticed. The record is rough, free and completely ass-kicking. The Blues Explosion blossoms behind him and they add a garage feel (Casios, harmonicas, and fuzzed guitars) and texture to R.L.'s dirty Delta blues tracks.

It's full of jammed out blues and toasts and the honesty that comes from the recording is amazing. R.L. was particular about who he played with, and most artists needed to really understand his style to keep up. The Blues Explosion obviously respected his music and the results speak for themselves.

R.L. passed away in 2005, struggling to stay healthy after a heart attack. In true R.L. fashion, after the heart attack in 2001, Burnside's doctor advised him to stop drinking; Burnside did, but he reported that change left him unable to play. (WIKI)

This artist lived life the same way he played music, and for him the line between the two was often blurred. Anyone unfamiliar with his work should start listening.
MP3:: Shake em' On Down
MP3:: Tojo Told Hitler

Posted at 11:11 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 12:24 PM, Blogger guero canadiense did sayeth:

That is a killer album, and yes still underappreciated when it should be worshipped as a contemporary blues masterwork.


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