Thursday, January 31, 2002

This week's (02.04.02) New Yorker has a story about Matthew Johnson, this insane Mississippi record company guy. He's been attempting to record and sell the music of bunch of old bluesmen. The story, called "White Man at the Door," by Jay McInerney, offers this reminiscence of Johnson's first encounter with R.L. Burnside:

“I remember the day I met R.L.,” Johnson says…”We were driving in his car. He was drunk. Every damn light on his dashboard was on, red lights flashing everywhere. There were cows on the road, and he was driving with one hand. He’s definitely, like, nihilistic - in a friendly way. He loves when things go wrong. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods – he just loves ‘em.”

The sound he's trying to capture and sell:

Johnson is trying to illustrate the evolution of the authentic anarchic howl – from Charley Patton to Eminem. He seems to be looking for the anti-Whitmanesque strain of the American voice – the naysayers, the verbal bomb throwers, the primal screamers. His heroes are the anti-heroes: Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, Keith Richards, Axl Rose, Cobain, Eminem, plus the blue-collar heroes Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock. Genre be damned – in his mind, these are the true descendants of the lonely, libidinous, and eternally damned Robert Johnson, the true kin of Burnside and Ford.

Accused of ignorance, exploitation, and even bad taste, Johnson was unfazed: “I’ve been trying to sell out for years. I just never knew how before.”<br>

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