It’s raw. And it’s real. Cedric Burnside is no poseur. He is the Hill Country Blues. He’s lived it. He grew up in it. Cedric Burnside’s version of the blues is as authentic as it gets. Grandson of Hill Country Blues trailblazer R.L. Burnside, Cedric lived with R.L., his Big Daddy, toured with him, and learned the ways of a traveling bluesman. Big Daddy’s house lacked running water so Cedric and others had to carry it. They chopped firewood and sharpened the axes. Hard times in rural Mississippi.

But he learned those blues lessons so well, he’s been nominated for three Grammys and won one for I Be Trying (Single Lock Records, 2021). He’s a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor of the US Government for the folk and traditional arts. He’s also the winner of multiple Memphis Blues Awards and several Blues Music Awards.

Burnside is currently on tour supporting his latest album, Hill Country Love (Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group, 2024). He and his band stopped by Denver for two shows at Globe Hall, May 31 and June 1, 2024. As he did on Hill Country Love, the set list Friday night included many original compositions mixed with Hill Country Blues standards from his Big Daddy as well as other Hill Country bluesmen such as Junior Kimbrough and Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Burnside’s original compositions stay true to the Hill Country sound, primarily using a one-chord vamp (although not always) and a shuffling rhythm. It was music germinated in and cultivated for hot, sweaty, moonshine-fueled Mississippi juke joints. In other words, you’ll have a hard time sitting still.

That’s not to say that all Hill Country Blues is non-stop boogie. There’s a mellower, more introspective side to Cedric Burnside’s blues, as well. He started his set playing solo, sitting down with an acoustic guitar. He began with an original, “The World Can Be So Cold,” a self-explanatory view of life. He primarily used a finger-picking style. On “You Got to Move,” another original, he pulled out a slide that came and went through the evening. That tune was also one of several in the set list reflecting his religious faith.

Live interview at KUVO, June 1, 2024

After five solo tunes and an R.L. Burnside paternity joke (not his paternity), he brought out his band comprising Cody Harrell on bass and Joe Eagle on drums. No backing singers, no horns, no extra percussionists, no keyboards or additional guitars; Burnside favors a stripped-down sound, the basics, raw.

Cedric Burnside got his musical start on the drums. He picked up a pair of drumsticks when he was about six years old. Big Daddy, R.L., had house parties about every other week and young Cedric was soon beating out rhythms in back of his Big Daddy and the other musicians who came around to play. By age 10, Cedric was holding down the drum chair in R.L.’s band when they played in local juke joints. His uncle Garry Burnside, age 12, was the bass player. By age 13, Cedric set out on the road playing drums for his Big Daddy. Garry, by then 15, continued on bass. Cedric and Garry would sometimes have to hustle out the back door during gigs whenever law enforcement appeared looking for underaged kids.

Eventually, Cedric decided to switch to guitar and vocals. Around 2002 or so, he began to fiddle around with a guitar given to him by Luther Dickenson of the North Mississippi Allstars. By 2012 or 13, he started to come out from behind the drums to the front of the stage for parts of a concert and eventually became the full-time frontman.

Having started as a professional at age 13, Cedric Burnside has been able to make a living as a musician since that time. Well, there was that brief stint as a cashier at the Dollar Store when he was 16, but that was the only exception.

Momentum is on Burnside’s side. With a recent Grammy, a fine new album, and a busy touring schedule, Cedric Burnside is well-positioned to bring Hill Country Blues out of Mississippi and spread it around the world.

 Set List

The World Can Be So Cold
Hard to Stay Cool
Mellow Peaches
You Got to Move
Shake ‘Em on Down

With the band:

Hill Country Love
Thank You
I’m Hurtin’
I Want You Home
Goin’ Down South
What Makes Me Think
Hands Off That Girl
Po Black Maddie
Step In

The Band
Cedric Burnside, guitar, vocals
Joe Eagle, drums
Cody Harrell, bass

Cedric Burnside-Globe Hall
May 31, 2024

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