Events Calendar

Aug

20

Cedric Burnside

The blues is music for all time—past, present, and future—and few artists simultaneously exemplify those multiple temporal moments of the genre like North Mississippi’s Cedric Burnside.

The Mississippi Hill Country blues guitarist and singer/songwriter contains within him the legacy and future of the region’s prescient sound stories. “Life can go any kind of way,” Burnside says. With almost 30 years of performing and living blues in him, he would know.

Burnside’s blues inheritance, the North Mississippi Hill Country blues, is distinct from its Delta or Texas counterparts in its commitment to polyrhythmic percussion and its refusal of familiar blues chord progressions. Often, and especially in Burnside’s care, it leads with extended riffs that become sentences or pleas or exclamations, rendering the guitar like its West African antecedent, the talking drum. Riffs disappear behind and become one with the singer’s voice, like the convergence of hill and horizon in the distance.

The 42-year-old Burnside was born in the blues as much as he was in funk, rock, soul, and hip-hop. These latter sensibilities are reflected across his work, as he drives Hill Country blues into grooves that lend themselves readily to an urgent, modern moment. But he is also keenly his grandfather’s grandson, who he studied so carefully over a decade playing with him that he came to know him better than his own self.

Burnside’s two Grammy-nominated album projects— the 2015 Descendants of Hill Country and 2018’s Benton County Relic—were both capstone statements for a lifetime of musical labor channeling the blues spirit on drums, guitar, and vocals in the North Mississippi Hill Country tradition.

Burnside’s turn inward has him considering his place in the family legacy of professional blues musicians, which includes the legendary R.L Burnside. He says Big Daddy always took care of his family, including his 13 children and several grandchildren and great grandchildren. Despite his touring schedule, Burnside is deeply grateful for his capacity to support and be present for his own children. About this, he says, “I have been there, and I will be there.” That’s for certain about the past, present, and future of the North Mississippi Hill Country blues, too.

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