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RL Burnside-Mississippi Hill Country Blues ((TOP))

It's a pleasure to hear R.L. Burnside's early acoustic blues played the way he learned them in the hill country of Northern Mississippi. Three of these tracks date from 1967 and were recorded in Coldwater, MS by folklorist George Mitchell, while the remaining 16 were recorded in the early '80s by Swingmaster operator Leo Bruin in Groningen, Netherlands. This is Burnside playing solo (and mainly) acoustic country blues with the only addition to his guitar and voice being the harmonica of Red Ramsey on "Rolling and Tumbling." While you can't go wrong with the purchase of any Burnside recording, these Swingmaster sessions portray a natural relaxed unaccompanied Burnside. Recorded long before the mid-'90s, Fat Possum releases would find him playing in an electric band with his son and son-in-law and occasionally experimenting with sampling and indie rock leanings.

RL Burnside-Mississippi Hill Country Blues

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Hill country blues (also known as North Mississippi hill country blues or North Mississippi blues) is a regional style of country blues. It is characterized by a strong emphasis on rhythm and percussion, steady guitar riffs, few chord changes, unconventional song structures, and heavy emphasis on the "groove", which has been characterized as the "hypnotic boogie".[1]

The hill country is a region of northern Mississippi bordering Tennessee. It lies in the counties of Desoto, Marshall, Panola, Tate, Tippah, and Lafayette[2] and straddles the ecoregions of the North Hilly Plain (Red Clay Hills or North Central Hills), the Loess Plains, and Bluff Hills. The hills have poor agricultural soil and wide forested areas, which led to the development of a lumber industry but only small farms.[3] Holly Springs and Oxford, Mississippi, are often cited as centers of hill country music. The style is regarded as distinct from the blues of the Mississippi Delta, which lies west of the hill country. An annual picnic is held to celebrate the region and its music.

"Mississippi" Fred McDowell, who lived in Como, Mississippi, was one of the subgenre's most widely known musicians, in the 1960s and after. His music was heavier on percussive elements and African rhythms than traditional Delta blues. McDowell's performances helped define the Hill Country blues sound, influencing later artists, such as R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.[7][8][9] Other influential hill country musicians include the multitalented Robert Belfour, Calvin Jackson, and Sid Hemphill.

Burnside, Kimbrough, Othar Turner, and Jessie Mae Hemphill appeared in the documentary Deep Blues and went on to popularize this sound through recordings released by Fat Possum Records. The families of these artists along with North Mississippi Allstars formed a new generation of hill country musicians. Banjo player Lucius Smith, fife and drum musicians Ed Young and Napoleon Strickland, and guitarist and singer Rosa Lee Hill also influenced this style. Others, such as Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Cedric Burnside, and Kenny Brown carry on the hill country blues tradition today. Other musicians such as The Bush League Blues Band play an electrified version of hill-country as filtered through Memphis, and the Black Keys recorded their tenth album of hill country blues covers.

What Cedric brought to the music was crucial, though. Percussion and rhythm are key to the hill country blues sound. Unencumbered by the strictures of 12-bar Delta blues and I-IV-V chord progressions, Hill country songs can repeat licks and motifs almost until they become trance inducing, propelled by the rhythmic, slide-accented guitar figures.

He formed the Sound Machine with his sons and in 1981 put out Sound Machine Groove (opens in new tab), a record that reflected the times. Playing electric guitars, the band somehow aligned country blues with danceable funk and soul.

Callicott taught Brown the tunings and techniques of hill country blues. Tuning his guitar to open G, which he called Spanish tuning, Callicott laid the instrument in his lap and used a pocket knife as a slide.

In 1971, Brown met R.L., and they became fast friends over their love of hill country blues. For a slide, Brown used a glass Coricidin bottle, a deep-well 11/16 socket or a -inch piece of copper he cut at his construction job.

Additional chapters cover another meeting between McDowell and Woods, a quick recording with Joe Callicott and then a Labor Day gathering complete with barbecue and the fife & drum band in all their glory, creating a whirling mass of dancers all day and all night long, as evidenced by the accompanying photo array. Mitchell also includes four pages of short biographies of the musicians and closes with his thoughts on the current conditions in the hill country, where buildings stand empty and a new generation of musicians, centered on the Burnside and Kimbrough clans, continues making music with a modern edge.

Near the town of Coldwater in Tate County, Miss., where the kudzu hills rise gently from the Delta flatlands in the west, there's a gravel track that runs through stands of scrub oak and pine to reach a dusty clearing: two single-wide trailers, a small vegetable patch, a bluetick hound sleeping in the lee of a faded green Lincoln. Music is in the air--the fierce, hypnotic boogie known as hill-country blues--because this is the headquarters of the North Mississippi Allstars.

Cedric Burnside is one of the few purveyors of North Mississippi Hill Country blues, a loose, driving regional variation of the blues that was created by his grandfather R.L. Burnside, among others. It is distinct from its Delta or Texas counterparts in its commitment to polyrhythmic percussion and its refusal of familiar blues chord progressions. Often, and especially in Burnside's care, it leads with extended riffs that become sentences or pleas or exclamations, rendering the guitar like its West African antecedent, the talking drum. Riffs disappear behind and become one with the singer's voice, like the convergence of hill and horizon in the distance. Sometimes they become the only voice, saying what the singer cannot conjure the words for.

Luther Dickinson is one of the sharpest blues guitarists of the last 20 years. Already familiar with the hill country blues of legends such as R.L. Burnside, Othar Turner and Junior Kimbrough when he was a child, Dickinson, who's part of the North Mississippi Allstars, was also one of the lead guitarists for The Black Crowes, a member of supergroup The Word, and session musician for John Hiatt. He makes his solo debut in Barcelona to present 'Blues & Ballads: A Folksinger's Songbook, Vol. I & II' (2016). 041b061a72


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