1. Just Like a Bird Without a Feather
2. Goin' Down South
3. Come on In
4. Little Babe
5. Rollin' and Tumblin'
6. Jumper on the Line
7. Skinny Woman
8. Poor Black Mattie
9. Long Haired Doney
11. Walkin' Blues
12. Hobo Blues
13. My Time Ain't Long
14. Sat Down on My Bed and Cried
Despite the twists and turns in the road, the north Mississippi hill country is a mighty small place. There are no strangers here-especially among the region's musicians, who have gathered to play, drink, work and party together for decades. So it is now, and so it was 35 years ago, when musicologist George Mitchell first recorded R.L. Burnside. It was fife player Othar Turner who led Mitchell to Burnside's house, just as it was Fred McDowell who first inspired Burnside to pick up a guitar.
Unearthed when Fat Possum purchased Mitchell's vast catalog of field recordings, this 14-song collection reveals Burnside's slash-and-drone style in its most primitive form.
"Little Babe" clip-clops like an updated version of McDowell's seminal "My Babe," while "Rollin' and Tumblin'" is delivered with a dark, driving hill country beat. Don't miss Burnside's earliest, most intense versions of "Goin' Down South" (which buzzes like a hive full of bees) and "Jumper on the Line," or the galloping percussive lines of "Skinny Woman" and "Poor Black Mattie," thankfully recorded crystal-clear.
The real treasures here are the seldom-heard opening lament, "Just Like a Bird Without a Feather" and the closing weeper "Sat Down on My Bed and Cried. "I shot my baby/ But I did it because she did me wrong," Burnside sings on the former. "I caught my baby cheating/ Now my home ain't where it used to be." It paints a picture of a love gone horribly awry, yet the song is as starkly beautiful as the desolate landscape that inspired it.