Monday, January 3, 2011

Song of the Week: "Skinny Woman" R.L. Burnside

Walk into almost any blues jam in America, Europe or Australia and you almost assuredly will be hit with a tidal wave of guitar players with a Fender Stratocaster, a fedora, a Marshall amp, a ton of overdrive and a grimacing face that punctuates every overdrawn, noodling note they play. I like to call these guys the Strat-in-a-Hat players. They treat the other musicians, even the singers, with a sense that they only perform a utilitarian necessity to deliver their long Stevie Ray Vaughan influenced guitar solos that overwhelm everything and everyone.

But that is not what the blues always was. Nor what it should be. The art of the subtle has been lost in the electronic age. Today's Song of the Week comes from Coldwater, Mississippi in the late 60s. It's the first recording of a farmhand as he sits in his living room playing, alone, by himself, unaccompanied, without anyone else, on a cheap Kay acoustic guitar tuned to an open G. The song is Skinny Woman and it is just one of the 14 recordings compiled on the now out of print, First Recordings album.

R.L. Burnside would grab some notoriety late in life when bands like The North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Keys started covering his work and his more modern recordings, such as It's Bad You Know, got action on shows like The Sopranos. (read our May 10, 2009 article on this song here).

But this is R.L. Burnside at his rawest, and best. The influence of his neighbor, Mississippi Fred McDowell is quite evident. Enjoy. And seek out the First Recordings album on Fat Possum Records if you can.

1 comment:

  1. The Blues is a form that is both easy to replicate, but extremely difficult to really get to the heart of. It's like a ship covered in barnacles, and everyone thinks the barnacles are the ship. But, remove all of the cliches, all of the costumes, all of the assumptions about it, and I think you have a form of music that is menacing, moody, and downright spooky with a dash of sex thrown in. I think Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough helped to steer things back there in the 90s.

    Thanks for the post, Morgan.