R.L. Burnside – Well… Well… Well

Well... Well... Well

If you’ve ever heard R.L. Burnside play, you’ll know the significance of this album’s title; “Well… well… well” is one of his pet phrases, a constant punctuation to his conversation.

Burnside is a modern-day Delta bluesman who plays deep blues boogies in a trance jam that transcends even John Lee Hooker. He has recorded sporadically over the years, his high coming with his masterpiece breakthrough album, Bad Luck City, in ’91. Lately, he has toyed with rap-blues in concert with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

This new album captures (for the most part) a live concert in Charleston, South Carolina, in ’86, part of a tour with Burnside and harmonica player Jon Morris, where they traveled the South in a silver ’58 Cadillac. A smattering of other cuts came from concerts in The Netherlands in ’91, Greece in ’92, and a home recording from Holland in ’93. The net result is a tad disjointed, but this is still a fine collection of hard-driving modern Delta blues. Burnside plays few of his trancelike boogies and more classic covers or “original” versions of standards. Despite these covers and his debt to John Lee Hooker, R.L. is still an original.

This review originally appeared in VG‘s July ’01 issue.

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