Blues musician Cedric Burnside carries on the tradition of his grandfather

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Cedric Burnside at KCRW. Photo by Amy Ta.

Mississippi hill country blues is a style of music that has been kept alive on front porches and in bars across the southern United States. 

Musician Cedric Burnside is preserving what his famed grandfather R.L. Burnside helped create: a rural, lo-fi, twangy-groove genre. 

Burnside tells Press Play that the unorthodox rhythm of hill country blues distinguishes it from other types of blues: "Most blues you hear, whether it is Delta blues, Chicago blues or Texas blues, they all tend to use the one, four, five [chord progression]. We don't use that too much."

Burnside says he likes to call hill country blues “feel music” because you never know what the musician(s) will do. “They just do what they feel, you know? If they feel like changing, they will. If they don't, then they won't,” he says.

Burnside’s last album, "Benton County Relic," earned him a Grammy nomination. One song on that album is “We Made It.” Making it meant getting running water in his home. 

He explains: “The family that I grew up in and just the environment that I grew up in, it was a very poor environment. I grew up in a house. Maybe 15, 20 people in four rooms. … No bathtub, no toilet, no running water. So I hauled water on my back with a belt for years until I was 11, 12 years old.” 

Burnside says that as a child, he didn’t really think about being poor, and was mainly focused on music instead. “It [music] just made me forget about the environment we was in. We was young. And to us, it was normal.” 

He was 13 years old when he did his first tour with his grandfather R.L. Burnside’s band. 

"I never left Mississippi before to play any music. … So just getting out for the first time. … We played Toronto, Canada. … I did my first tour with him at age 13, and I've really just been doing it ever since," he recalls.


Cedric Burnside performing. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Tonight, Burnside is playing at The Echo. He says he doesn’t perform in LA as much as he’d like. “So it is good to hit the west coast and kind of rekindle the spark again. Because me and Big Daddy [his grandfather R.L.] used to come here all the time before he passed. I would say in the … mid-90s to late 90s, we used to come here at least once, twice a year. … And so I miss LA. I miss California, period."

--Written by Amy Ta and Rosalie Atkinson, produced by Rosalie Atkinson

Credits

Guest:
Cedric Burnside - American electric blues drummer, guitarist, singer and songwriter

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski