Cedric Burnside’s Hill Country Blues at Memphis’ @LevittShell

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R. L. Burnside was one of the most famous musicians in the blues tradition of the North Mississippi Hill Country, and many of his children and grandchildren have carried on that great tradition, including Cedric Burnside, a grandson of the late R.L. who is accomplished on both the guitar and the drums. After coming to prominence as part of a duo with another Mississippi bluesman, Lightning Malcolm, he more recently has formed a band called the Cedric Burnside Project, which is really just him on drums and Trenton Ayers on guitar (I suspect that Trenton Ayers is kin to the older Marshall County bluesman Little Joe Ayers). On Saturday June 21, Cedric brought his music to the Levitt Shell in Memphis’ Overton Park, and an overflow crowd despite hit and run showers early in the evening. Beginning on acoustic guitar, Burnside soon switched to drums, and performed most of the Hill Country standards, including “Coal Black Mattie”, “Don’t Let My Baby Ride”, and even the late Junior Kimbrough’s “Meet Me In The City.” It was a great evening of great Mississippi blues.

Celebrating the Hill Country Blues at Oxford’s Powerhouse Community Arts Center

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While registering for the Southern Entertainment Awards at Resorts Casino in Tunica, I looked on my phone and saw where a concert of Hill Country blues was taking place at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center in Oxford. The weather had gotten really bad, with high winds, thunder and lightning, but I decided to drive over that way from Tunica, stopping for dinner at the Oyster Bar in Como. The concert had already started when I got to Oxford, and Sharde Thomas was on stage with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. I learned that the event was being held for the attendees of the Southern Literary Festival, which was being held on the Ole Miss campus nearby. After the fife and drum band, Hill Country blues legend Duwayne Burnside came on stage with his band, including David Kimbrough Jr on drums, and played a selection of traditional and modern blues songs, getting the most applause for his reading of his father’s “See My Jumper Hanging Out On The Line.” (The strange title of that song had always mystified me, until I read recently that rural women who were cheating on their husbands used to hang a man’s jumpsuit on their clothesline as a signal to their boyfriends that the coast was clear and they could come over). Duwayne Burnside was followed by the Rev. John Wilkins, whose style of gospel is largely based on the music of Hill Country blues, despite the religious tone of the lyrics. Although I had seen all the performers elsewhere in the past, it was an exciting and enjoyable performance.

Blind Mississippi Morris & Frank Moteleone-Old Black Mattie-Live at @Bristerfest @LevittShell @OvertonPark

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Clarksdale/Memphis traditional bluesman Blind Mississippi Morris performs at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park during the first day of Bristerfest in Memphis, 4/27/13. Of interest here is to note how the more familiar lyric “Coal Black Mattie” (as performed by R.L. Burnside) is changed by Morris into “Old Black Mattie”, perhaps intentionally, but more likely from oral tradition. Occasionally, another variation, “Poor Black Mattie” is encountered as well from certain singers.

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The late Hill Country bluesman R. L. Burnside was a much-beloved fixture at Memphis music festivals, and his legacy is continued by his grandson Cedric Burnside, who is both a first-rate guitarist and an amazing drummer. If you’re a fan, visit http://www.cedricburnside.com/, or like him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Burnside-Project/168919959805998.

Kenny Brown and Duwayne Burnside Live at the Beale Street Music Festival, 2012

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Hill Country bluesman Kenny Brown grew up near Mississippi Joe Callicutt in Desoto County, and was eventually mentored by the late R.L. Burnside. He has been tireless in his effort to preserve the Hill Country Blues tradition, not only through his performances and recordings but through he and his wife’s organization of the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic which is held in Marshall County, Mississippi each June. Here Kenny and Duwayne Burnside perform at the Southern Comfort Blues Shack at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, 5/6/12. You can purchase Kenny Brown’s most recent album “Can’t Stay Long” here: http://devildownrecords.com/

Opening the Beale Street Music Fest 2012 with the North Mississippi Allstars

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Luther and Cody Dickinson are sons of legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson, and they are the driving force behind the North Mississippi All-Stars. The rich Hill Country Blues legacy of Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside and the fife-and-drum band music of Otha Turner all have contributed heavily to the All-Stars sound, and while the band is very much a Mississippi entity, it is also a Memphis one, and there is no more appropriate act to open the Beale Street Music Festival.