Rising Son 

Up-and-coming bluesman Duwayne Burnside is ready to be heard.

"Hill country gotta sound don't nobody have," Burnside says with a thick Southern accent from his home in Holly Springs, where he's just driven from playing a festival in Tampa. His young son is crawling all over him.

"Memphis got so many peoples, but it ain't got too many hill country bluesmen, 'cause we got our own style — doin' it more raw," he says. "As you go further into the city, they got more technology, pedals and stuff. Hill country is just playin' what you feel. In a juke joint, you ain't got nothing but a guitar and an amplifier."

Burnside's celebrated father died last year at 80 after a late career revival in the 1990s that produced some modern-day blues classics, such as "Too Bad Jim" and "A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey."

Most of his life, R.L. Burnside worked as a sharecropper and commercial fisherman. But after his powerfully expressive voice and tumbling, dronelike blues style was featured in the 1991 documentary "Deep Blues," the "hill country sound" became more popular. This was also thanks in no small part to the Fat Possum record label, which helped revive the careers of several obscure blues artists.

Burnside had a large family and many of his children continue to play music with each other and in their own groups. Growing up, Duwayne Burnside got to sit in with just about every major blues guitarist you can imagine — Memphis was nearby.

Of all the siblings, Duwayne seems to be enjoying the most success so far. He was recently nominated for best new blues artist from the internationally respected W.C. Handy awards (the show airs on TV in Japan).

His latest album, the raw "Under Pressure," features Burnside's muscular blues-rock playing with an occasional blend of Memphis blues and Motown soul. Younger fans may have already experienced his energetic playing from his touring days with the North Mississippi Allstars, a well-known country-rock jam band.

"I love 'em, and it was good. They got they own thing. I enjoy it, but I enjoy myself better," Burnside says. "They crossed me over [to a white jam-band audience]. … But my style came from hanging out with my daddy — I grown up in it. You gotta be doing it and livin' it and feelin' it. It kinda grow into me."

It's clear that Burnside still misses his father, with whom he had a special bond. He hopes to honor his father by releasing a tribute album by January, tentatively titled "I Got Your Back," on his own label, B.C. Records.

Burnside said that one of the last things he asked his father to do was sing with him at the massive Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee.

As a young man, Burnside says, he also learned a lot by playing bass with another blues legend, Junior Kimbrough and the Soul Blues Boys.

"Junior was like my other dad, man. He helped me out and I learned so much from him," Burnside says. "As far as [other] influences, Albert King, my daddy and Lightnin' Hopkins — they all gave me something."

Now, the fiery son is forging his own reputation on the road, meeting celebs like Morgan Freeman (whose music club, Ground Zero in Clarksdale, Miss., Burnside is playing next month) and mega rock stars such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who once made the trip into the back country — disguised as truckers — to watch him play.

Burnside will be performing with a four-piece at his Richmond show, and he says that he never knows exactly what each show will be like.

"It's probably gonna be kinda hard, rockin' blues," he says. "But certain cities I go, I change the thing, 'cause I get a certain feelin', know what I'm saying?"

Burnside says that he wouldn't mind playing sometime with Eric Clapton, who he says has created a "hot, fat sound" on his own, similar to what Burnside does when he takes a Johnnie Taylor soul song and remakes it into Burnside blues.

"I used to hang out with Albert Collins," he says. "He was a good guy, and Little Jimmy too. You know, I try to do a little of them, Albert King, daddy, Junior Kimbrough and just keep all of 'em alive. … In Richmond, I'm gonna try to take care a business and just make sure people have a good time." S

Duwayne Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia perform at Arthur's at the Inns of Virginia, 5215 W. Broad St., Friday, May 26, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance at www.thegrooves.biz or $15 at the door.

Click here for more Arts & Culture


Latest in Arts and Culture


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Brent Baldwin

Connect with Style Weekly

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation