January 19, 2019

BIKING BURNSIDE

Let's get this weekend party rocking with a bit of motorcycle action and R.L. Burnside! I recently shared some video clips of my old blues band with friends and it was so fun to have that era of music reawaken for me in vivid picture and sound. Well, the clips were pretty lo-fi actually, but seeing the footage sure brought that time in my life back into detail! I started playing guitar when I was a little kid and gravitated towards the Blues. I followed John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, among many others, and I was fortunate to see a lot of my heroes play live. There was a huge ripple through the Blues community in the early 1990s, when Fat Possum Records began to record northern Mississippi players like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. R.L. became my main guy at that point. I just found his music fantastically hypnotic, driving, and playful at the same time. He started touring up north with his grandson Cedric on drums and Kenny Brown on second guitar. For a few years there, I always made a point to get to his shows early so I could hang out with them as much as possible. R.L. was always generous and happy to connect, and I had great conversations with Cedric about whether he should go to school or keep gigging with his granddad. Cedric Burnside has since grown up and has become a celebrated and gifted Bluesman himself! So happy for him! R.L. passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on! I was looking at footage of their old gigs last night and came across this clip on Youtube; a fun hybrid of my love for R.L. and appreciation for classic British films. As you'll hear, R.L. and Fat Possum did some experimenting with loops in the late 1990s and they produced some cool tracks like It's Bad You Know (Come on In/1998). Listen for the haunting harp tone- I would have enjoyed playing that part! I'm not sure why the video editor thought to connect these two worlds, but I enjoy it a lot. Included in the film footage are clips from The Leather Boys (1964) by Sidney Furie (The Ipcress File), Hell Drivers (1957) by Cy Endfield starring Sean Connery, Patrick McGoohan, William Hartnell, and David Maccallum, and Girl on a Motorcycle (Naked Under Leather/1968) starring Marianne Faithful and Alain Delon by the wonderful cinematographer who worked with Powell and Presburger, Jack Cardiff. Push play and start your own Spy Vibe dance party! Explore the Burnsides: Too Bad Jim, Mr. Wizard, Benton County Relic. Image: my fave R.L. photo with his dog, Jim. I used to have a great signed copy of this hanging in my room. In other news, I have a new book out (over 700 pages!) about one of America's great cartoonists. Check it out! Enjoy!


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