Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down

Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down

5.0 1
by R.L. Burnside

View All Available Formats & Editions

The old adage that you can take the man out of the country but you can't take the country out of the man rings out like Sunday-morning church bells on R.L. Burnside's Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down . Producer John Porter (Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Billy Bragg, the Smiths) has taken the Mississippi hill-country guitarist, singer and songwriter into the studio


The old adage that you can take the man out of the country but you can't take the country out of the man rings out like Sunday-morning church bells on R.L. Burnside's Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down . Producer John Porter (Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Billy Bragg, the Smiths) has taken the Mississippi hill-country guitarist, singer and songwriter into the studio without his six-string and put him in the company of session players like guitarist Smokey Hormel (Tom Waits, Beck) and ambient scratchers DJ Pete B and DJ Swamp. But the raw, lonesome sound of Burnside's voice prevails over tape loops and studied roots guitar licks, making the set one of the most successful blends of blues and technology to ever be captured in the studio. It's a dark set with Burnside starting off talking about fathers and sons being killed in Chicago on the droning choruses of "Hard Time Killing Floor." Pete B's scratching and a slinky slide guitar give the Skip James tune a rootless, alienated feel that carries over to more traditional blues interpretation of the title cut. Here, only Burnside and his regular guitarist, Kenny Brown, are present, but they carry the weight of the world with them. Gone are the rough and tumble good times of the recordings Burnside did with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and yet, Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down, with its stories of poverty, injustice, drunkenness, and heartbreak, is a natural extension of that work. For though times change at the pace of a lazy river in Mississippi, Burnside is a blues survivor who at times brings a too vivid past into the moment. On the final cut, a potent talking blues "R. L.'s Story," Burnside tells the fuller tale of how murdered relatives on the mean streets of Chicago drove him back to a lean life of sharecropping.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Alex Henderson
Like jazz, the blues has its share of late bloomers -- artists who didn't start recording or didn't become well-known until they were well into their 50s or 60s. R.L. Burnside is very much a late bloomer; the Mississippi bluesman was born in 1926, but it wasn't until the 1990s that he started to enjoy the publicity he deserved. Recorded in 2000, Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down finds the veteran singer continuing to be fairly unpredictable at 73. Essentially, this CD falls into the Mississippi blues category -- Burnside maintains the earthy, down-home rawness that people expect from Mississippi country-blues. But Burnside certainly isn't without urban influences, and this CD illustrates his appreciation of John Lee Hooker and early Muddy Waters as well as the Texas blues of Lightnin' Hopkins. Burnside has also been influenced by R&B; one of the few tracks that he didn't write or co-write is a cover of Aretha Franklin's 1960s smash "Chain of Fools." The producers (who include Andy Kaulkin, John Porter, and Brad Cook) try to make that track and others relevant to hip-hop by adding sampling and scratching -- and when they do, it sounds forced and unnatural. Some of the producing is simply too high-tech for an artist as raw as Burnside, but that doesn't make his vocals any less impressive. Despite its imperfections, Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down is a generally appealing document of Burnside at 73.

Product Details

Release Date:
Fat Possum Records


Album Credits

Performance Credits

R.L. Burnside   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Kenny Brown   Guitar
Bradley Cook   Loops
Johnny Dyer   Harp,Background Vocals
Tommy Eyre   Wurlitzer
Rick Holmstrom   Guitar
Andy Kaulkin   Synthesizer,Piano,Keyboards,Wurlitzer
Iki Levy   Loops
John Porter   Bass,Guitar,Mandolin
Jeff Big Dad Turmes   Bass
Billy Valentine   Background Vocals
Smokey Hormel   Guitar
Steve Mugalian   Drums
Paul "Wine" Jones   Track Performer
Antony Genn   Bass
Lynwood Slim   Harp
Janiva Magness   Background Vocals
Martin Slattery   Wurlitzer
Robert Belfour   Track Performer
DJ Swamp   scratching
D.J. Pete B.   scratching

Technical Credits

Skip James   Composer
Don Covay   Composer
R.L. Burnside   Arranger
Bradley Cook   Producer
Andy Kaulkin   Producer
Iki Levy   Producer
Joe McGrath   Engineer
John Porter   Producer
Paul "Wine" Jones   Composer
Antony Genn   Producer
Helix Hadar   Engineer
Matthew Johnson   Producer
Richard Flack   Programming,Engineer
Traditional   Composer
Jason Henry   Artwork
Bruce Watson   Producer

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
R.L Burnside is the ultimate paradox of blues music--- he is the last genuine performer of raw Mississppi hill country sound, as well as the most cutting edge crossover artist the blues has had in the past 30 years. His new record Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down proves it. Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down is the accumulation of 73 years of hard-earned experience and contains some of R.L.¿s best singing ever. His voice has gained maturity and depth, while his phrasing is detailed and emotional. This is particularly evident on the title track, a gospel gem accompanied only by Kenny Brown¿s driving acoustic guitar, while ¿Hard Time Killing Floor¿, and ¿Got Messed Up¿ mix ambient beats with slide guitars, DJ scratches and R.L.¿s mournful moan. On this album, you will also find R.L. shouting (¿Miss Maybelle¿), hollerin¿ (¿See What My Buddy Done¿) and even joking (¿Too Many Ups, & Nothing Man¿). R.L. Burnside was born in Layfayette County, near Oxford, Mississippi in 1926. As a young man R.L. moved North into the neighboring Marshall County and began sharecropping. Inspired by John Lee Hookers¿ 1950¿s hit ¿Boogie Chillun¿,¿ R.L. began singing blues and playing guitar. In addition to the Hooker 45 rpm there were other local forces that influenced R.L as well: such as ¿Mississippi¿ Fred McDowell and Ranie Burnette. Fed up with the hopelessness of sharecropping, Burnside migrated to Chicago in hopes of finding economic opportunity. Chicago did not work out. In the span of one month R.L.¿s father, brother and uncle were murdered. Check out ¿Hard Time Killing Floor¿ and the closing ¿R.L.¿s Story¿ for R.L¿s take on his early years in Chicago. Around 1959 he returned to Mississippi to again work the farms and raise a family. He also started to play music at night and on weekends. R.L.¿s first recordings appeared on a 1967 Arhoolie compilation. Although R.L. preferred electric guitar, the fashion of the day dictated that he be recorded acoustically. These recordings earned Burnside enough of a reputation to play festivals and tours at home and abroad. Throughout the `70s and `80s R.L. played with a family band consisting of sons Joseph and Daniel as well as son-in-law Calvin Jackson, known as the Sound Machine. Though a local favorite R.L. and the Sound Machine were barely known outside of North Mississippi. This all began to change for R.L. in the early `90s when the documentary film based on Robert Palmer¿s book Deep Blues featured R.L. as one of its highlights. Subsequently Palmer produced R.L.¿s Too Bad Jim for the fledgling Fat Possum label. Along with Junior Kimbrough¿s All Night Long, Too Bad Jim was one of the most important and influential blues albums of the `90s. It¿s the year 2000 and R.L. Burnside is still breaking down boundaries, and bringing the blues to where it¿s never gone before. Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down is R.L.¿s story. Listen up.