Fat Possum celebrates 25 years with wide-ranging, yearlong blues LP and digital series

March 1, 2016 rl 25-01

OXFORD, Miss. — Fat Possum Records, the Oxford, Mississippi-based label that set a new standard for raw blues and rock ’n’ roll, will commemorate its 25th anniversary with a year-long program including the first-time-on-vinyl release of 30 groundbreaking blues recordings.

The series, highlighting Fat Possum’s storied and varied history, includes new and first-time-on-vinyl releases from hard-hitting North Mississippi “Hill Country Blues” performers; stellar sides from past masters of the Delta style cut in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, recorded by famed musical historian George Mitchell; classic compilations of juke joint blues-rockers; and a first-time-on-vinyl reissue of the acclaimed 2005 All-Star tribute to arguably Fat Possum’s second most famous bluesman, Junior Kimbrough, involving Spiritualized, Black Keys, The Stooges, and Pete Yorn.

Fat Possum was started in 1991 by Matthew Johnson using $4,000 in student loans. The label soon gained recognition with albums by North Mississippi bluesmen Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, produced by musician and former New York Times music critic Robert Palmer.

Starting with Kimbrough’s All Night Long, and followed by Burnside’s Bad Luck City, Fat Possum found itself landing a perfect one-two punch to the blues-rock establishment, finding just the right mix of commercial and critical success and — utter ire among the so-called blues purists. Releases that followed were an ear-opening experience for blues listeners. Eschewing rocked-up “contemporary blues” and directionless archival reissues, Fat Possum brought to the foreground a generation of hard-hitting blues musicians who had been hiding in plain sight for decades. With never a nod to the past, no evidence of nostalgia, the music wasn’t presented with a whiff of the folkloric — these were upside-your-head records that were made to blow the back off your shack.

Fat Possum’s original stars and some of its greatest discoveries will be available as part of its 25th-anniversary series. Kimbrough will be represented by a vinyl reissue of Meet Me in the City, released a year after the trance-blues master’s 1998 death.

T-Model Ford will be heard on a pair of ferocious sets cut in tandem with longtime drummer Spam: T-Model’s label debut Pee Wee Get My Gun (1997) followed by Bad Man (2002), the latter of which was produced by the venerated musician-producer Jim Dickinson.

The most down-home side of the Fat Possum roster will be represented in a cache of albums by some of the label’s most gifted solo performers: Robert Belfour (2000), Robert Cage (1998), Johnny Farmer (1998), and Asie Payton (2002). R.L. Burnside, perhaps the label’s best known and most revered artist, will be heard on a compilation of material recorded before his arrival at Fat Possum. R.L. Burnside’s Unplugged, packages never-before-heard sides recorded in Europe in 1982.

Music by these and other Fat Possum blues artists — plus offerings from house-rocking modern acts as Grandpa Boy (a.k.a. Paul Westerberg of the Replacements), Bob Log III, 20 Miles (featuring Judah Bauer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), Heartless Bastards — will be released on vinyl and digital editions of the label’s three Not the Same Old Blues Crap anthologies (from 1997, 2001, and 2004) and the compilation All Men Are Liars (1998).

Fat Possum-affiliated label Big Legal Mess will offer a selection of ten LPs and full-length downloads drawn from George Mitchell’s genre defining fieldwork, recorded between 1963 and 1982. Some of the material has been unavailable in its entirety since its original 12-inch release. Artists include such masters as Furry Lewis, Buddy Moss and Houston Stackhouse.

Additionally, John Lee Hooker’s Alone, a 1976 solo live set by the Detroit blues titan captured at New York’s Hunter College, will make its appearance on two individual LPs. Also premiering on vinyl will be Sunday Nights, the 2005 Kimbrough salute starring The Black Keys (whose own Fat Possum albums put them on the map), Iggy & the Stooges, Spiritualized, Cat Power, Mark Lanegan, and a host of other top rock ’n’ roll talents.

Since its outset two-and-a-half decades ago, Fat Possum’s operating motto has been “We’re Trying Our Best.” This celebratory cavalcade will prove definitively that its pretty damn good.

COMPLETE FAT POSSUM RELEASE SCHEDULE

RELEASED IN 2015:

Oct. 2 – Not the Same Old Blues Crap 1 LP
Oct. 30 – J.W. WarrenLife Ain’t Worth Livin LP / Digital
Oct. 30 – Jimmy Lee WilliamsHoot Your Belly LP / Digital
Nov. 27 – Buddy Mossself titled LP / Digital
Nov. 27 – Not the Same Old Blues Crap 2 LP

TO BE RELEASED IN 2016:

January 8 – Leon PinsonHush – Somebody Is Calling Me LP / Digital
February 19 – Various ArtistsNot the Same Old Blues Crap 3 LP (Blues Crap 1 & 2 in the UK Also)
April 8 – Furry LewisGood Morning Judge LP / Digital
April 8 – Houston Stackhouse & Friends LP / Digital
April 16 – Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough Record Store Day LP
April 16 – Junior KimbroughI Gotta Try You Girl Daft Punk Edit Record Store Day LP
May 06 – R.L. Burnside – Mississippi Hill Country Blues LP
May 20 – John Lee HookerAlone Volume 1 LP
May 20 – John Lee HookerAlone Volume 2 LP
May 27 – T-Model FordPee Wee Get My Gun LP
May 27 – T-Model FordBad Man LP
June 10 – Jim Bunkley & George Henry Bussey LP / Digital
June 10 – Junior KimbroughMeet Me in the City LP
June 24 – R.L. Burnside (unreleased recordings)
July 15 – Asie PaytonJust Do Me Right LP
July 15 – Robert BelfourWhat’s Wrong With You LP
July 22 – All Men Are Liars Compilation CD / LP / Digital
Aug. 17 – Jimmy Lee HarrisI Wanna Ramble LP / Digital
Aug. 17 – Robert CageCan See What You’re Doing LP
Sept. 9 – Johnny FarmerWrong Doers Respect Me LP
Oct. 7 – Dewey Corley & Walter Miller LP / Digital
Oct. 7 – Paul “Wine” JonesMule LP