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NNN0LHI Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-20-06 09:46 PM
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Any other R. L. Burnside fans out there? Tojo Told Hitler is my favorite
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R. L. Burnside

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

R. L. Burnside (born Robert Lee Burnside, Harmontown, Lafayette County, Mississippi, November 21 or November 23, 1926; d. Memphis, Tennessee, September 1, 2005) was a blues singer, songwriter and guitarist who lived much of his life in and around Holly Springs, Mississippi.

He played music for much of his life, but did not receive much attention until the early 1990s.


Burnside spent most of his life in the rural hill country of northern Mississippi, working as a sharecropper and a commercial fisherman, as well as playing guitar at weekend house parties. He was first inspired to pick up the guitar in his early twenties, after hearing the 1948 John Lee Hooker single "Boogie Chillen" (which inspired numerous other rural bluesmen, among them Buddy Guy, to start playing). He learned music largely from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who lived nearby in an adjoining county. He also cited his cousin-in-law, Muddy Waters, as an influence.

During the 1950s Burnside grew tired of sharecropping and moved to Chicago, Illinois in the hopes of finding better economic opportunities. But things did not turn out as he had hoped. Within the span of one month his father, brother, and uncle were all murdered in the city, a tragedy that Burnside would later draw upon in his work, particularly in his interpretation of Skip James's "Hard Time Killing Floor" and the talking blues "R.L.'s Story," the opening and closing tracks on Burnside's 2000 album Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down.

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."


Burnside had a powerful, expressive voice and played both electric and acoustic guitars (both with a slide and without). His drone-based style was a characteristic of North Mississippi hill country blues rather than Mississippi Delta blues. Like other country blues musicians, he did not always adhere to 12- or 16-bar blues patterns, often adding extra beats according to his preference. He called this "Burnside style" and often commented that his backing musicians needed to be familiar with his style in order to be able to play along with him.

His earliest recordings, like those of John Lee Hooker, sound very similar in their vocal and instrumental style to the music of West Africa, specifically Mali. Many of his songs do not have chord changes, but use the same chord or repeating bass line throughout, giving his music a hypnotic feel. His vocal style is characterized by a tendency to "break" into falsetto briefly (usually at the ends of long notes).

He also knew many toasts (African American narrative folk poems such as "The Signifying Monkey" and "Tojo Told Hitler") and frequently recited them between songs at his live concerts and on his recordings.

A Ass Pocket of Whiskey

A Ass Pocket of Whiskey is an album by R. L. Burnside released on Matador Records on 18 June 1996. The genre might be described as lo-fi storytellin' garage-blues-rock with explicit (dirty) lyrics.


Goin' Down South
Boogie Chillen
Poor Boy
2 Brothers
Snake Drive
Shake 'Em on Down
Criminal Inside Me
Walkin' Blues
Tojo Told Hitler
Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)

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