14 Songs, 37 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

George Mitchell’s jaw was on the floor when he first recorded R.L. Burnside in Coldwater, Mississippi, on a sweltering night in August of 1967. Mitchell had already recorded several established musicians in the area (Will Shade, Furry Lewis, Fred McDowell) when a friend of Burnside’s — the harmonica player Johnny Woods — told Mitchell about Burnside. First Recordings reveals a musician playing and singing in a hypnotic, cyclical style that contained elements of McDowell and John Lee Hooker, but was unlike anything anyone had ever heard outside the micro-locale of North Mississippi. The complex repetitive motions he unleashes on self-possessed numbers like “Jumper On the Line,” “Long Haired Doney,” and “Goin’ Down South” give Burnside a power and a presence befitting a full band, and he never — ever — misses a beat. Mitchell’s 1967 session would mark the beginning of a long and fruitful career. First Recordings not only captures a master in his prime, but preserves that moment of jaw-dropping discovery when the immense power of an unknown musician first touched foreign ears.

EDITORS’ NOTES

George Mitchell’s jaw was on the floor when he first recorded R.L. Burnside in Coldwater, Mississippi, on a sweltering night in August of 1967. Mitchell had already recorded several established musicians in the area (Will Shade, Furry Lewis, Fred McDowell) when a friend of Burnside’s — the harmonica player Johnny Woods — told Mitchell about Burnside. First Recordings reveals a musician playing and singing in a hypnotic, cyclical style that contained elements of McDowell and John Lee Hooker, but was unlike anything anyone had ever heard outside the micro-locale of North Mississippi. The complex repetitive motions he unleashes on self-possessed numbers like “Jumper On the Line,” “Long Haired Doney,” and “Goin’ Down South” give Burnside a power and a presence befitting a full band, and he never — ever — misses a beat. Mitchell’s 1967 session would mark the beginning of a long and fruitful career. First Recordings not only captures a master in his prime, but preserves that moment of jaw-dropping discovery when the immense power of an unknown musician first touched foreign ears.

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