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R.L. Burnside; Paul Jones

R.L. Burnside; Paul Jones (Ash Grove, Santa Monica; 300 seats; $ 20) Presented inhouse. Bands: (Burnside) R.L. Burnside, Kenny Brown, Cederic Burnside; (Jones) Paul Jones, Dale Beavers, Cederic Burnside. Opened and reviewed Dec. 30, 1996; closed Dec. 31. The Fat Possum blues label based in Oxford, Miss., has become a darling of the alternative rock and critical circles for the earthy, honest and most significantly raw material it chronicles, leading to a just-signed distribution deal with one of the most significant American independents, Epitaph (Offspring, Bad Religion) and R.L. Burnside's current Matador/Fat Possum release, "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey." Burnside performed Monday seated with grandfatherly ease and front-porch charm that belied the tense origins of his snugly wound blues. He is an absolute master of simplicity and groove. Billed as the Fat Possum Revue, Burnside, Kimbrough (who was out of Monday's lineup due to illness) and forty-something Paul "Wine" Jones ride a bloodline to rural juke joints and Saturday-night barbecue dances. These are first-generation bluesman much like Robert Johnson or Mississippi John Hurt or John Lee Hooker their music is untainted by outside influence, informed more by their experiences as sharecroppers and welders than by their predecessors. It is raucous and playful music; the lyrics that dwell on troubles clearly supply a catharsis for the performers who see music as a necessary expression rather than a vehicle for escape from hard living. Beyond lineups of two-guitars and drums that play locked-in driving blues and cracking jokes about drinking, Burnside and Jones have little common ground. Burnside, Fat Possum's best-known artist who has transcended the traditional blues market through his association with the noisy alt-rock outfit Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, relies on oft-repeated riffs, some as short as four or six notes, in tandem with guitarist Kenny Brown. At times the two men use slides that add an extra sting without cutting into the dense bass-note drone, a system that has its roots in West Africa that can be heard in the music of Hurt, James Brown and even the Allman Brothers Band. When a little air is let in, most noticeably on "Too Bad Jim," Burnside lightens up; when the guitars attempt to keep up with Cederic Burnside's incendiary drumming, the trio tears into all-out boogie, R.L.'s mumble becoming a roar. The rawness of the whole affair is as refreshing as Hooker's Detroit recordings from the early 1950s. Despite the urbanization of the blues having passed Burnside by, he is no museum relic. His music is the result of organic maturity at its most honest, a reminder that pockets of America retain and support regional culture that's worth celebrating. Paul "Wine" Jones, in contrast, is a more ragged performer who relies on the chord progressions that Chess label artists standardized in the 1950s and early '60s. Yet for every moment Burnside kept compact and close to the heart, Jones opened the door and flailed away, while Dale Beavers' guitar provided dense chords of support with Cederic Burnside's effectively restrained drumming. Jones' music, captured at its most tar-like on his one disc, "Mule," is loud and spirited. "My Baby Got Drunk," describing the rare occasion in the blues when the woman is sick of being mistreated so she heads to the bar, was the liveliest moment of the evening. In his performance of two Jimmy Reed songs, Jones eliminated the loping quality of the originals and started grinding away, yet another testament to the rural hominess of all this music. Phil Gallo

R.L. Burnside; Paul Jones (Ash Grove, Santa Monica; 300 seats; $ 20) Presented inhouse. Bands: (Burnside) R.L. Burnside, Kenny Brown, Cederic Burnside; (Jones) Paul Jones, Dale Beavers, Cederic Burnside. Opened and reviewed Dec. 30, 1996; closed Dec. 31. The Fat Possum blues label based in Oxford, Miss., has become a darling of the alternative rock and critical circles for the earthy, honest and most significantly raw material it chronicles, leading to a just-signed distribution deal with one of the most significant American independents, Epitaph (Offspring, Bad Religion) and R.L. Burnside’s current Matador/Fat Possum release, “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey.” Burnside performed Monday seated with grandfatherly ease and front-porch charm that belied the tense origins of his snugly wound blues. He is an absolute master of simplicity and groove. Billed as the Fat Possum Revue, Burnside, Kimbrough (who was out of Monday’s lineup due to illness) and forty-something Paul “Wine” Jones ride a bloodline to rural juke joints and Saturday-night barbecue dances. These are first-generation bluesman much like Robert Johnson or Mississippi John Hurt or John Lee Hooker their music is untainted by outside influence, informed more by their experiences as sharecroppers and welders than by their predecessors. It is raucous and playful music; the lyrics that dwell on troubles clearly supply a catharsis for the performers who see music as a necessary expression rather than a vehicle for escape from hard living. Beyond lineups of two-guitars and drums that play locked-in driving blues and cracking jokes about drinking, Burnside and Jones have little common ground. Burnside, Fat Possum’s best-known artist who has transcended the traditional blues market through his association with the noisy alt-rock outfit Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, relies on oft-repeated riffs, some as short as four or six notes, in tandem with guitarist Kenny Brown. At times the two men use slides that add an extra sting without cutting into the dense bass-note drone, a system that has its roots in West Africa that can be heard in the music of Hurt, James Brown and even the Allman Brothers Band. When a little air is let in, most noticeably on “Too Bad Jim,” Burnside lightens up; when the guitars attempt to keep up with Cederic Burnside’s incendiary drumming, the trio tears into all-out boogie, R.L.’s mumble becoming a roar. The rawness of the whole affair is as refreshing as Hooker’s Detroit recordings from the early 1950s. Despite the urbanization of the blues having passed Burnside by, he is no museum relic. His music is the result of organic maturity at its most honest, a reminder that pockets of America retain and support regional culture that’s worth celebrating. Paul “Wine” Jones, in contrast, is a more ragged performer who relies on the chord progressions that Chess label artists standardized in the 1950s and early ’60s. Yet for every moment Burnside kept compact and close to the heart, Jones opened the door and flailed away, while Dale Beavers’ guitar provided dense chords of support with Cederic Burnside’s effectively restrained drumming. Jones’ music, captured at its most tar-like on his one disc, “Mule,” is loud and spirited. “My Baby Got Drunk,” describing the rare occasion in the blues when the woman is sick of being mistreated so she heads to the bar, was the liveliest moment of the evening. In his performance of two Jimmy Reed songs, Jones eliminated the loping quality of the originals and started grinding away, yet another testament to the rural hominess of all this music. Phil Gallo

R.L. Burnside; Paul Jones

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