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* * * * R.L. BURNSIDE "Burnside on Burnside" \o7 Fat Possum/Epitaph

Pop Music

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October 21, 2001|Robert Hilburn

This sizzling package is a revelation on two fronts. First, it sweeps away the idea that you can't find bluesmen these days with the passion and authenticity the giants of the genre displayed a half-century or more ago.

And second, it shows that his recent studio albums didn't reveal everything there was to know about the 74-year-old former sharecropper.

The Mississippi singer-guitarist has been making records since the '60s, but he operated far under the media radar until he hooked up with producer Tom Rothrock in 1998 for the much admired, electronica-minded "Come on In" album. Burnside followed it last year with another winning work, "Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down." It too was filled with studio embroidery that tempered Burnside's blues purity.

In "Burnside on Burnside," we hear this musical marvel live, pure and uncut. Recorded during a West Coast tour in January, the 12-song collection features supercharged renditions of several songs, including "Miss Maybelle" and "Bad Luck and Trouble," that have been part of his repertoire for years.

But there is such a high-voltage energy and intensity to these performances that the music has a fresh, compelling stamp.

Burnside's vocal enunciation could be sharper in places, but his guitar exchanges with Kenny Brown offer a tension and celebration that not only toasts the glory of Burnside, but of the blues itself.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless noted.

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