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Buyer's Guide: Fat Possum Records

Having offered a new lease of life to the long-lost bluesmen of Mississippi, the label that’s “trying its best” is branching out...

Fat Possum began life in 1991 in Water Valley, Mississippi. Masterminded by Matthew Johnson and Peter Redvers-Lee – who worked on the US magazine Living Blues – the label’s motto, “we’re trying our best”, underplayed a fervour for the blues few could match.

The label’s brief was simple: to record relatively unknown blues musicians in their local area of Holly Springs and Oxford, Mississippi. Johnson and Redvers- Lee defined blues as raw, tough and grimy, with touchstones being the boogie rhythms of John Lee Hooker and the hill country blues of Mississippi Fred McDowell. And with blues authority Robert Palmer on board as A&R man and sometime in-house producer, they struck creative gold from the off.

RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough were the first to join the roster. The former, from Holly Springs, had studied under McDowell, and after debuting for Fat Possum with 1992’s Bad Luck City, he remained at the label until his death in 2005, aged 78.

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