Blues label inks distribution deal with MRI.

Fat Possum Records and Epitaph Records have ended their joint-venture relationship.

Fat Possom, a left-of-center Oxford, Miss.-based blues label, joined L.A. punk power Epitaph in 1996, following a tumultuous two-year association with Capricorn Records.

"It had run its course," Fat Possum head Matthew Johnson says of the venture with Epitaph. "It was technically in the black, but we were costing [them money], so they didn't want to continue funding the deal."

Johnson says that effective immediately, his label is being distributed by New York-based MRI via Ryko Distribution. MRI has handled some of the company's more esoteric titles since late 2003.
Fat Possum will retain its catalog, except for titles by Solomon Burke and King Ernest. "Rubber Factory," a new set by the Akron, Ohio, blues-punk duo the Black Keys, will be issued in the fall as a Fat Possum/Epitaph album.

The next release from Fat Possum will be "A Bothered Mind," a new collection of remixed tracks by bluesman R.L. Burnside, scheduled for Aug. 17. Due later in the year are an as-yet-untitled new album by the legendary Detroit R&B singer Nathaniel Mayer and "Sunday Night: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough," a tribute to the late Fat Possum blues artist with tracks by Iggy & the Stooges, Jon Spencer and the late Elliott Smith, the Black Keys and the Fiery Furnaces.

Epitaph president Andy Kaulkin, who was instrumental in bringing Fat Possum to the label, could not be reached for comment.