rl’s got soul
The last time I saw R.L. Burnside play music was on January 19, 2002 at the House of Blues Chicago. When you see R.L. live, you don’t feel like you’re at a venue. It doesn’t feel like a concert. It’s as if you’re in Holly Springs, Mississippi watching him play guitar on his front porch. It feels like you’re part of the family. His grandchildren are usually dancing and clapping hands on the side of the stage, just out of view. His grandson, Cedric, is always right behind him, smiling as he attacks his drum set. You can tell Cedric was born into the blues. He’s got soul. Rounding out the threesome is a man R.L. called his adopted son, Kenny Brown. The three of them are tight. They’ve been doing this awhile and it shows. R.L. wanders through the set playing whatever he’s in the mood to play. He ends each song with a deep, booming “WELL WELL WELL”. Between songs he fiddles with his guitar and tells the dirtiest, most offensive jokes known to man. When he’s talks, everyone listens. Kenny’s slide guitar gets softer and softer and Cedric taps the drums softer and softer as R.L. commands full attention from the crowd. The music slowly gets quieter and quieter until it stops. Now there’s nothing but R.L.’s voice. It’s just you and him. You’re in his living room and he’s telling you a dirty joke. The punchline smacks you in the face. The audience laughs, and with a “WELL WELL WELL” the music starts over, louder and with more soul and more grit than before. That’s how he rolls. He’s a man who lived what he sings. He lived hard and dirty, so he sings hard and dirty. This music is the blues. It’s the blues, ya hear me. And noone does it better than R.L. Burnside. Go out and buy a Burnside record. You won’t be sorry. I recommend “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey”.
R.L. died on September 1, 2005.