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The raw side of blues

Bad Luck City
Bad Luck City
By R.L. Burnside and the Sound Machine

Fat Possum Records: 1992

This review first appeared in the October 16, 1992 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

This, the debut of former Living Blues editor Peter Lee's new Fat Possum label, is also the first all-electric recorded set by guitarist/vocalist R.L. Burnside, a longtime veteran of the Mississippi blues scene (although this isn't delta blues, but electric boogie.)

If the recording quality is a bit rough at the edges – the album was recorded in an empty club – that same roughness does an effective job of framing the gritty, streetwise music of Burnside, lending his music a certain context or atmosphere.

Burnside's guitar work isn't the most technically brilliant you'll hear, nor are his vocals the most polished. But like a Cincinnati chili house where the spoon isn't exactly clean but the food and beer are tops, Burnside's music has a certain combination of innate quality and charming honesty that will seduce those who can look beyond the ornamentation (or lack thereof).

In fact, the overall impression when the band hits its groove (on Burnside's original "Long Haired Doney/Poor Boy Long Way from Home," for instance) is reminiscent of the Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf bands of the early '60s – full of power and with a confidence that allows the music to transcend its surroundings.

This is a strong outing, both for Burnside and Fat Possum Records, and, we may hope, a harbinger of things to come.