R.L. has been an invisible hand behind some of the most culturally important, vital music America has to offer the world.
R.L. Boyce’s Hill Country Blues is effortlessly transcendent and mesmerizing. Capturing the juke-joint, moonshine fuelled, picnic party life of Como, Mississippi, Boyce takes the listener through Saturday night and over that fine line that separates it from Sunday morning. This is god-fearing music on Mississippi terms.
R.L. Boyce has become so highly regarded people see him as the Ravi Shankar of Hill Country music. Hill Country music is loose and free, so much so that it puts both the performer and the listener in a warm, almost meditative state while still groovy enough to demand a good ass shake. Through improvisation, it is designed to heighten your consciousness. You don’t play this sort of music so much as you submit to it. R.L.’s been a musician since his days as a child growing up in Como, Mississippi, home to the great Hill Country bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell.
He started out as a drummer, playing for the Rising Star Fife and Drum band with blues legend Otha Turner, all the while waiting to come out in front to sing and play guitar. His songs are often delivered in an improvisational fashion, with references to his collaborators, his environs and whatever else happens to be on his mind at that particular moment. You will never hear the same R.L. Boyce song twice. This latest collection of songs was recorded over two days. Everything was done on the first take, giving listeners a rare glimpse into the kind of masterful jams that pop up at backyard parties and get-togethers in the Hill Country. The recordings were co-produced by David Katznelson, and North Mississippi Allstars leader and Black Crowes collaborator Luther Dickinson. Dickinson also appears as a musician on the record. To properly capture the sound of R.L. and his friends, you set up the mics, get the hell out of the way and let the hypnotic boogie take over. As R.L. himself says, “Most of it, when somethin’ hits my mind, I just start. I don’t do no rehearsin’ with nobody. I don’t do nothin’ like that. Whatever hits me, I jump in on it.”
They say the greatest players are so tight they are loose. This is that.
Quote from Co-Producer Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars): This is the most important honest to God Hill Country Blues Record made since R.L. Burnside’s A Ass Pocket Of Whisky. The only record capturing the father and son double drumming team of Cedric Burnside (RL Burnside’s drummer and grandson) and Calvin Jackson. R.L. Boyce is a first-hand protégé of Fred McDowell, Ranie Burnette and RL Burnside but with an added rhythmic edge he honed from his time playing drums with Jessie Mae Hemphill. R.L.’s endless boogie keeps the She Wolf style alive. The record is a revelation of improvised blues lyrics, my favorite being, “Bury me face down. Don’t come to my funeral looking to see my face, you won’t see nothin but ass and nuts.” Lightnin Malcolm laid down the 2nd guitar bass line with R.L. throwing in abstract blues splashes of lead guitar. I laid out with the slide until he would ask me to play, “Give it to me. I need it.” R.L. and I formed our friendship and both learned to play hill country blues sitting on Otha Turner’s front porch. He would berate us if our playing seemed uninspired but if we got a feeling raised up he would jump up, throw his hat down, start dancing and singing eventually passing around his own ass pocket of corn whisky. That is what R.L. and I lived for in those days
And the world is talking notice: In 2018, RL received the Little Milton Campbell Lifetime Blues Award from the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation. His 2017 album “Roll and Tumble” on Waxploitation Records was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album and Blues Music Awards for best traditional blues artist (male) and best emerging blues artist album. The song “Shotgun” from that album is featured on Showtime’s “The Chi.” This was the second release from a series of live sessions featuring himself, Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes), Cedric Burnside, Lightin’ Malcolm, and the late-Calvin Jackson that were recorded in R.L.’s front yard in Como and at Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch studio in Coldwater, Mississippi. The first release from those sessions, “Ain’t the Man’s Alright,” came out in 2013. R.L.’s third album, “Ain’t Gonna Play Too Long,” was also culled from those sessions. His most recent release, “Rattlesnake Boogie,” was recorded in the summer of 2018 in Malaga, Spain, and produced by Youth (U2, Crowded House).
In 2017, RL appeared on BBC’s “Later … with Jools Holland” and NPR’s World Café. In 2018, he performed at the Beale Street Music Festival (Memphis), Montreal Jazz Festival, Big Blues Bender (Las Vegas), Telluride Blues and Brews Festival (Colorado), Blues Alive (Czech Republic), Blues Rules Crissier Festival (Switzerland), and shows in New York, Calgary, and throughout the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Over the years, RL has performed at venues, festivals, and juke joint parties across the globe, including the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, Juke Joint Festival, Deep Blues Festival, Blues Kitchen (London, U.K.), Medellin Blues Festival (Colombia), Antone’s Blues Club (Austin, Texas), Red’s Blues Club (Clarksdale, Mississippi), Pereira Blues & Fusion Festival (Colombia, South America), Roots Roadhouse (Los Angeles), and the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic.
RL also appears on:
Otha Turner & The Rising Star Fife and Drum Band – “Everybody Hollerin’ Goat,” “From Senegal to Senatobia,” and “Twenty Miles of Elbow Room”
Jessie Mae Hemphill – “Jessie Mae Hemphill” and “Feelin’ Good”
Carlos Elliot, Jr. & The Cornlickers – “Del Otun & The Mississippi”
Carlos Elliot, Jr. – “Raise the Fire America” (live bonus track with the Cornlickers)
The documentary “M for Mississippi: A Roadtrip Through the Birth of the Blues”
The documentary “Shake ‘Em On Down: The Life of Mississippi Fred McDowell”
As well as over 30 years of recording and performing blues in Australia and internationally with the Backsliders, Dom has embarked on a variety of solo and collaborative musical projects including touring as a solo artist in the USA, playing and teaching blues guitar at Augusta Blues week in West Virginia, and in 2006, touring Mexico with US blues greats, Del Ray and Steve James. His trademark ‘slide’ guitar sound can be heard on myriad session recordings and his songs have featured on the ABC TV programme ‘Seachange’, as well as the soundtrack to Tim Winton’s best-selling novel, ‘Dirt Music and the 2013 Channel 9 TV series ‘Underbelly – Squizzy Taylor’. In 2008 Dom was invited onstage to play with slide guitar legend Derek Trucks at the Adelaide international Guitar Festival.
Dom also performs with US blues harmonica legend, Phil Wiggins, as well as Australian Record Industry Award (ARIA) award-winning harmonica player and member of ‘Backsliders’, Ian Collard, as traditional blues duets, both projects with albums released. Dom has recorded and released a cross-cultural music recording with Vietnamese stringed instrument master, Kim Sinh, entitled “Two Days in Hanoi” as well as a soon to be released album (2017) with innovative Korean komongo musician, Jin Hi Kim
Most recently Dom teamed up with Toledo Ohio based lap steel guitarist Nikki D Brown of the Sacred Steel guitar tradition on a recording followed by and Australian tour in 2017.