Husky Burnette talks deep blues and dirty rock

by Patty Templeton

A backyard BBQ chock full of funeral potatoes and PBR, in a tent in a Tennessee field with the sweltering sun fighting a monsoon for attention, or in a basement bar lit exclusively by Christmas lights, or tumbling from a chopper sitting next to you in traffic – they’re all the natural habitats for hearing Husky Burnette’s thunder-go-boom boogie and blues.

Burnette’s hill country growl is a greasy cast iron pan of a voice. One minute it’s cooking a sweet, slow meal and the next it’s throttling through the kitchen at you. He’ll slide guitar your hips to a sway and make them hard days shuffle past faster.

The Durango Blues Train will host Husky Burnette and Caroline Crews, but sorry, dudes, if you didn’t snag tickets early, you’re outta luck. The Blues Train is sold out.

DGO spoke to Burnette about deep blues, influences, and what’s coming up next.

Deep blues. What is it? One word: Real.

We just got back from Clarksdale, Mississippi, today, been there all weekend. That’s deep blues. Deep blues is a feeling. Last night we went into a place called Red’s in Clarksdale, old school juke joint. Still the same as ever, there’s tarps tied up to the ceiling so it doesn’t leak and man, the music that was playing in there last night. You walk in and everything is dimly lit. There’s no lights on but red rope lighting and, man, that’s it. Deep blues, music like you hear at Red’s, it’s where rock ’n’ roll and everything came from.

Cats like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and the likes, that’s deep blues. The roots of it all. Trance blues. Trance music.

Is the blues quintessentially working-class music? Yes and no. Everybody comes to a blues festival. Everyone shows up. People that live there and walked from a couple streets down. People that flew in from outta the country.

But, in its roots, the blues is definitely a working class kinda thing. It started with people working on the farm and sitting around on the porch, so yeah, it definitely stems from that.

Do hard political times make the blues more important to folks?I think so. There’s a lot of people pissed off right now and music is definitely a release, whether you are writing it or performing it or listening to it.

I think music right now is important, period. What’s going on out there in the world is not cool. I look to music for everything. It’s my daily vitamin.

What’s a song that inspires the hell outta you?There’s a song called “Who Knows,” by Jimi Hendrix on “Band of Gypsies.” That album is very special to me. That album, I would say it’s in my top three. I don’t know what the other two albums would be, but that’s in there. That first track, “Who Knows,” it’s a really, really good song for me. I love that song so much and I want to play it so badly and we’ve done it a couple of times, not all the way through and not really singing on it, just jamming, but that’s as far as I’ll go on it because it’s such a good song. Even if I had fun playing it, it wouldn’t sound like it does on that album, which is amazing.

What’s influenced you that most folks wouldn’t suspect? There’s a lot of heavy metal bands that influence me on the same level as Hendrix or R.L. Burnside. Buzzov•en and Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath may be an obvious choice, but for me, that gets it. Heavier stuff like Entombed. They were ’90s death metal and I started off playing that stuff.

What dead musician would you want to come haunt one of your shows? Hendrix would be cool. That would be it.

What do you think he’d say after he saw you play?Oh man. I don’t know how to answer that. [Laughs] Hopefully it would be something cool but I have no idea.

What about a living musician you’d want to hang with and see you play?Lee Michaels. He’s this guy from back in the ’70s who was a singer, songwriter, vocalist, organ player. He used to do just him and a drummer and that was it. My uncle turned me on to him and his self-titled album called “Lee Michaels.” It has some heavy stuff on it. I really got into him when I was younger.

Whatchya got in the works?We just got done recording in Pittsburgh, while on this tour. It’s my favorite stuff, right now. We had Joe Bent on drums. He used to play in Left Lane Cruiser and White Trash Blues Revival. He’s on tour with us. What we’re doing is recording a split 12-inch with Six Speed Kill for Rusty Knuckles. They’re thrash speed rock from Pittsburgh. We got four songs apiece on the split and one of the songs on my side is a collaboration with Six Speed Kill. We’re really excited about it.

You tour everywhere. What’s your tour philosophy? We moved to Colorado at the end of last year. It’s a more central point so we can go more places. We can go to the West Coast a lot easier and Tennessee without trouble.

This year, the schedule, we had some making up to do. I took over the booking myself at the end of last year. So this year, I put my nose down and filled up the year.

You gotta keep doing it, keep doing it, keep doing it to make ends meet. We try to stay on the road.

You’re about to play on a steam engine train. Ever play anywhere weirder than that?It’s probably the most unique setting I’ve ever played. [Laughs] I’ve played some weird places like some pretty rough biker clubhouses and those have been some strange nights but the steam train is probably the most unique so far. Playing on a moving vehicle is gonna be up there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. — Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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