Moaning in Mississippi

Which isn't to say that Burnside is the only artist today banging out this kind of unfettered electric blues. On his own pair of Fat Possum discs (Sad Days, Lonely Nights and All Night Long), Burnside's friend Junior Kimbrough has perfected a style of guitar playing that combines the hypnotic, trancelike work of John Lee Hooker with a modal, almost free-jazz approach to tone, texture, and rhythm -- the sort of boogie drone that can wander for nearly ten minutes with nary a wasted note. The recently released The Best of Fat Possum compiles some of Kimbrough's best work as well as a pair of previously unreleased cuts from Burnside ("Georgia Woman" and a new recording of "Snake Drive") and astonishingly intimate but decidedly loud offerings from Cedell Davis, Dave Thompson, and the Jelly Roll Kings. The Kings -- a trio led by former Sun bluesman Frank Frost -- have a blistering and raucous new album out on Fat Possum called Off Yonder Wall that spans the gamut of drinking songs, screwing songs, and the best song about fishing you'll ever hear.

Even beyond Mississippi, the blues, as Little Milton likes to put it, seems all right. In Chicago, Brewer Phillips is rocking around the South Side with a quartet that, judging from the hell-fire raunch of its Delmark album Homebrew, has channeled the spirit of Phillips's late boss, the great Hound Dog Taylor. Out on the West Coast, legendary piano man Floyd Dixon recently recorded a career-defining set (Wake Up and Live!) that effectively updates the jump blues style he perfected in the early Fifties with hits such as "Telephone Blues" and "Hey Bartender." Chicago blues vet Snooky Pryor -- one of the greatest harmonica players alive -- has resurfaced on the Austin-based Antone's label with the fine Mind Your Own Business, and Windy City drummer/vocalist Sam Lay (sideman for Howlin' Wolf and Paul Butterfield, among others) brings his humongous voice and big-beat groove to Stone Blues, issued awhile back on the Evidence label.

Tally those records up, add to the total the riveting acoustic-blues sets by newcomers Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and 'Keb 'Mo, and you've got not a revival of the music but proof of its vibrance and purpose. A golden era, if you will.

R.L. Burnside performs Friday, April 4, at Stella Blue, 1661 Meridian Ave, Miami Beach; 532-4788. Showtime is 11:00 p.m. Cover charge is $12.

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