Fat Possum Records
|Fat Possum Records|
|Genre||Blues, rock, hip hop|
|Country of origin||U.S.|
Fat Possum Records is an American independent record label based in Oxford, Mississippi. At first Fat Possum focused almost entirely on recording hitherto unknown Mississippi blues artists (typically from Oxford or Holly Springs, Mississippi). Recently, Fat Possum has signed younger rock acts to its roster. The label has been featured in The New York Times, New Yorker , a piece on NPR, and a 2004 documentary, You See Me Laughin.
Founded by former Living Blues magazine editor Peter Redvers-Lee and Matthew Johnson in 1992, the label initially specialised in discovering blues players from the North Mississippi region, many of whom had never recorded before. At Fat Possum's behest some artists, particularly R. L. Burnside, released both standard blues albums and more "techno" albums, done in the style that would later be made famous by Moby's album Play. This led to a fair amount of controversy among blues purists, a group in which Johnson was largely uninterested.
Although their releases were critically acclaimed, particularly Junior Kimbrough's album All Night Long, which received 4 stars from Rolling Stone and the loud approval of Iggy Pop, Fat Possum was perennially strapped for cash. Word of mouth and artist compilations, such as Not the Same Old Blues Crap 3 (with a cover illustration by Joe Sacco) and All Men Are Liars, gradually pulled Fat Possum out of the red, even if only for brief periods of time. Unfortunately, a legal fight with Capricorn Records, who were to be their distributor, drained Fat Possum's funds and left a number of projects on the shelf.
R. L. Burnside proved early on to be the label's biggest money maker. Having toured with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, he and Jon Spencer's band teamed up to record, in a single afternoon, the record A Ass Pocket of Whiskey, which further helped Burnside and Fat Possum gain wider recognition. A remix of the R. L. Burnsidesong "It's Bad You Know" was also featured prominently on The Sopranos.
With time, many of the label's artists have died. Asie Payton, King Ernest, and Charles Caldwell died before their records could be released. Junior Kimbrough died in 1998. R.L. Burnside died in 2005.
As the label has developed, it has begun to broaden its base of artists and sign a range of younger bands such as the Heartless Bastards, Deadboy & the Elephantmen, AA Bondy, The Black Keys, Andrew Bird, Milk Music, and the hip hop group, MellowHype. It has also begun to release more archival records, such as George Mitchell's 1967 recordings of Furry Lewis, Mississippi Joe Callicott, R.L. Burnside, Townes Van Zandt, and others, with covers designed by Chip Kidd.
The label also took a step in recent years to start releasing music from the new lo-fi rock trend, and released music from artists like Wavves, Crocodiles, and Bass Drum of Death. They also have tapped into the indie-folk scene releasing Verbena's frontman A.A. Bondy's solo records.
Fat Possum is known primarily for its early blues artists, such as R. L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, Robert Belfour and Junior Kimbrough. The successful band The Black Keys released their second album Thickfreakness (2003) on Fat Possum, and left the label after their third album Rubber Factory (2004). Solomon Burke's "comeback" album, Don't Give Up On Me, won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Notes and references
- From the Heart of Blues Country, The New York Times, Jan. 22, 1995
- The New Yorker, February 4, 2002
- "Fat Possum Records evolves with the blues". NPR, Weekend Edition Sunday, December 19, 2004
- You See Me Laughin': The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen (2003). Produced and directed by Mandy Stein.
- Peter Redvers-Lee later left, to be replaced by Bruce Watson.
- From The Observer, November 16, 2003:
One last question: how does he (R. L. Burnside) like the remixes of his music that Fat Possum has put out? 'At first I didn't like them too much,' he says. 'Then I saw how much money they were making and I got to liking them pretty well.' http://observer.guardian.co.uk/omm/story/0,13887,1083277,00.html
In addition to Burnside, Asie Payton's albums feature, as the last song(s), remixes.
- The liner notes for Not the Same Old Blues Crap 3 and several other blues compilations contain essays by Matthew Johnson regarding his feelings for blues archivalists. He is against them.
- Junior Kimbrough would perform one of his few tours with Iggy Pop.
- Sacco also travelled with T-Model Ford for a piece for Vanity Fair
- Blues Access: Fat Possum
The album was co-released with Matador Records, although the 2005 reissue was released solely by Fat Possum.
- Previously, the only non-Fat Possum recorded album released was by Scott Dunbar