The blues is one of America's oldest and most poetic art forms.
A vessel for the African-American experience, it's enjoyed its fair share of ups and downs, but it's still there, a living, breathing entity more than 100 years after the first note as sounded.
R.L. Boyce should know. Ever since he was young the blues has been there, part of the fabric of life in African-American communities of the deep South.
A true master of the hill country blues, his low-down sound is loose and free, unshackling itself from the 12 bar format to drone out endlessly across the Southern countryside.
New album 'Roll And Tumble' is out now, and it's a remarkable achievement: it's the pure, distilled essence of the blues, a potent, illicit mixture that flows out freely from the bottle.
Clash got in touch with R.L. Boyce to uncover a little more about his life, his music, and the community that surrounds it...
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Growing up in Como, Mississippi, we didn’t have no clubs or fancy ballrooms or concert halls to play in. All we had was yard parties and picnics to play at, like the ones over at Otha’s (Turner). And we sure had a lot of them. Sometimes, somebody might put us in a shed or an outbuilding back behind they house or in their backyard and we would play in there on Saturday and Sunday nights.
We called that a juke joint. It was a place we went to play and drink and dance and cut-up til the Sun come up the next day. That’s where you’d find me and Rural (RL Burnside) and Shake ‘Em Down (Mississippi Fred McDowell) and Johnny Woods and lots more.
The way it worked, we all go down there, whether it was a picnic or at somebody’s house, and one would play until he got tired and then another and then another. Sometimes we would play together and mix it up.
Everybody had they own style, but by always being around each other when we played and playing together, after a while you could hear a bit of what one of us did creep in to what the others was playing. That’s how the hill country style developed and grew. Still, no one plays it just the same although it is the same style.
Of course, we’d all take a little drink of “water” when we played just to help it ease on in and keep it going. Lots of folks used to make they own back in those days. Some still do now.
This record (‘Roll And Tumble’) come out of all that. All the people that played on this record - Cedric, Luther, Malcolm, Calvin - come out of that too. I developed these notes on my own from what come to me. Sometimes it might be from something I heard Rural or one of the others play, but it always come from me and was my own.
When he was just coming along, Luther used to come over and ask me to learn him these notes and we would sit on my front porch and play them notes and take a little sip or two all night long. When we sat down to do this recording, we set up in the front yard of my house just like it was a yard party or a picnic.
We didn’t have no list of songs or any particular order we was gonna play them in. We’d just look at each other, then I’d hit a note or somebody else would hit a note and the rest just grabbed a hold and took it wherever we could. I’d play and after a while I’d let one the boys have some of it and take it for a while. We just stayed on it til we was through with it, however long that took, and then we’d stop, look at each other, and do it again.
We sure had a lot of fun recording these songs. I hope you enjoy listening to them. If you do, come on down to Como and see me sometime. I’ll be sitting in the front yard waiting on you.
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'Roll And Tumble' is out now on Waxploitation Records.
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