Did last year's joint venture between hill country bluesman R. L.
Burnside and indie rock titan Matador Records catch you by surprise? Well dig
this. The label Burnside normally records for, Fat Possum Records, has signed a
new manufacturing and distribution deal--not with Matador, but with punk giant
Epitaph (home of Rancid, NOFX, the Humpers, etc., etc.). The first disc to be
released under the new agreement will be Burnside's March follow up to A Ass
Pocket of Whiskey, called Mr. Wizard.
"We're gonna sell more
Burnside records than Liz Phair records," boasts Fat Possum owner Matthew
Johnson. (Phair, for the record, records for Matador.) "That might not appear
to be a big goal, but it is in the blues world." According to Johnson, a
successful blues album may sell 20,000 copies. Matador reports that at last
count A Ass Pocket of Whiskey--a collaboration between Burnside and the
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion--had sold nearly 40,000 copies...
Fat Possum and Epitaph also have plans to release an album
of fife and drum music by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer;
however, sources at both labels seem to be most excited about T-Model Ford,
whose album Pee Wee Get Your Gun will be released in April.
Kaulkin, Epitaph's director of marketing and project development, and a key
player in the new deal, says Ford "makes R. L. Burnside sound like the
Carpenters or something. This guy is really crazy--raw, hardcore, raunchy
blues. Really weird percussion and strange sounds. Sometimes it reminds me of
Asked about the origins of the Fat Possum/Epitaph
association, Johnson deadpans, "Brett [Gurewitz, owner of Epitaph] had been
calling me for months." After admitting he's joking, Johnson goes on to
describe the new relationship in something less than corporate terms.
and Andy had talked for a while," said Johnson. "It was really awful. One day
he said, 'This is gonna work, we'll get a deal.' Then something happened and I
didn't hear from 'em, and I thought that was it, you know? Then I fuckin' broke
the shit out of my arm on this stupid horse. When I came back I had a big
morphine drip, and I was in the house when Andy called and said, 'Can you come
out and do this?'
"So I flew out the next day to L.A. and just signed some
deal that they gave me. I don't even know if it's good or not yet."