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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday RL Burnside Edition

RL Burnside is proof that music isn’t always a young man’s game, as he didn’t make a mark in the blues until the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He had moved to Chicago in the ‘40s, befriended Muddy Waters, but had his life derailed when his father, two brothers and an uncle were all murdered in Chicago, which, as one could imagine, inspired his music.

He then moved back to Mississippi, where he killed a man during a dice game and was convicted of murder. After serving only six months (!) in a work farm, he eventually recorded his first sides in the ‘60s, but wasn’t discovered until the late ‘80s, and when he was signed to Fat Possum in the ‘90s, the world finally got to hear Burnside’s classic Delta blues sound. He even did an album with Jon Spencer producing. Let’s pay tribute to a modern blues giant by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Elvis Costello & The Attractions — 13 Steps Lead Down (Brutal Youth): This was Elvis’s first reunion with the Attractions, and the album was quite good, but not littered with moments that sounded like their early albums. This song, however, fit the bill, as it brims with energy and Steve Nieve’s tinny organ and Pete Thomas’s snappy drumming.
  2. The Grass Roots — Heaven Knows (Greatest Hits, Volume 2): The Grass Roots were just an anonymous ’60s hit machine, playing some rock and a bunch of bouncy near bubblegum pop. This #24 hit is more in the latter vein, just a catchy tune.
  3. The 88 — Coming Home (Over & Over): The first two albums from The 88 are full of fey Kinks-y pop nuggets. This song was a real stand out, and ended up being used in a national ad campaign for a product that I can’t recall. They got a major label deal due to this song, but the magic had already run out.
  4. Robbie Fulks — Family Man (13 Hillbilly Giants): A fun hillbilly (of course) tune from Mr. Fulks. Why isn’t he more famous?
  5. Jason & The Scorchers — Beat On The Mountain (Halcyon Times): This is one of the all-time great comeback albums. The Scorchers still played out from time to time, but hadn’t set foot in a studio in a while. They brought in a lot of talented friends, like Dan Baird and Ginger of The Wildhearts and whipped up their best batch of tunes since their debut. The result was one hell of an album. This is a somewhat epic mid-tempo story song.
  6. The Flies — I’m Not Your Stepping Stone (The Freakbeat Scene): Of course, everyone knows The Monkees’ version of this Boyce-Hart tune. This British band did it in a more psychedelic manner, with a singer who was channeling Reg Presley of The Troggs. Not as good as The Monkees’ take on the tune, but pretty cold.
  7. Paul McCartney — English Tea (Chaos & Creation In The Backyard): A pretty tune from a pretty darned good Macca LP. This song certainly has a very ’60s vibe to it, and is all the better for it.
  8. The Chills — Heavenly Pop Hit (Submarine Bells): With a title like this, you better have written a pretty special song, and Martin Phillipps was more than up to the task. This is a swooping, celebratory yet melancholy tune that illustrates the sadness that the best pop songs rarely made it on the radio.
  9. Sparks — Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls (Lil’ Beethoven): In the context of the orchestral art-pop on this amazing 2002 Sparks comeback album, this tune is bracing as hell, with its fiercely rocking choruses. The lyrics are classic Ron Mael, as he explains how an ugly guy can get a hot chick — by being rich.
  10. Steve Earle — Nothing But A Child (Copperhead Road): One of my favorite Christmas songs, with Steve Earle and Maria McKee sounding great together. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate this take on the baby Jesus.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: lists, mp3

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