Guitarist

Artist: Cedric Burnside

Album: Hill Country Love (Provogue/Mascot)

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To those familiar with Mississipp­i’s distinct strain of hill country blues, Burnside is a name that carries weight. The big bang that started it all was the late RL, whose hypnotic grooves were the stuff of cult legend for more than half a century. But of the Burnside progeny keeping the hill country sound alive, few are rising faster than 45-year-old Cedric, who now follows 2021’s Grammy-winning I Be Trying with latest studio album, HillCountr­yLove. “To God be the glory,” he demurs, modestly, of this acclaimed new release, but the propulsive pulse of his guitar work surely deserves credit, too.

For the benefit of anyone who is so far uninitiate­d in Mississipp­i’s hill country blues, what characteri­ses the sound of that sub-genre for you?

“Well, for one, to me, I think it’s really about the unorthodox rhythm of hill country blues. It sounds way different than any other blues that you might listen to. I’m from the little town of Tullahoma and the music in this area is just something all of its own. It’s kinda hard to explain. It’s really hard to even put it down on paper. Most music you can read off paper, but with hill country blues, I think it’s kinda impossible to even try to write it or read it. My big daddy [Cedric’s grandfathe­r, RL Burnside] used to call it ‘field music’ and that’s because those cats just played a good guitar, and they played it from their heart. Sometimes there wasn’t any changes, y’know? And then sometimes they might put a change in there. But you don’t hear the ‘I-IV-V’ in hill country blues, hardly any.”

Can you tell us how your family connection with RL has fed into your own music?

“Growing up with my big daddy, I watched him and heard him play all the time as a little kid. From six or seven years old, I’d watch him practise on the front porch, in the front room and at the house parties he used to throw all the time. So that stuck with me. I’m just one of many grandchild­ren that witnessed this, but I think I’m one of the grandkids that was [most] amazed when I heard him play. I would always sit there and just be in amazement. And I would always tell myself, even as a little kid, ‘I am gonna play this music.’

“It means a lot to me, this music. It means a lot to me to keep it going. And to leave a legacy of my own. But my big daddy, he opened the door for the Burnside family. All those years playing with him, he inspired me, taught me how to travel the world, showed me great musiciansh­ip. And as I play my music, I think of him. Even though this is modern music and modern songs, it tends to sound a little old-school also, because that’s where my heart is at and I just love that sound.”

Is hill country blues still booming in your region – or is it your mission to shine the spotlight on a genre that is something of a lost artform?

“It’s still thriving. I have a very musical family. My big daddy and big mama – RL and Alice – they had 13 children. Eight of them was boys, and five out of the eight played music. A few has gone on to be with the Lord, but there’s still some here, like Garry Burnside and my uncle Duwayne Burnside. Junior Kimbrough was another great hill country artist – his music is known for the cotton patch soul blues sound, but he’s from the area – and his family is keeping it alive, too. Y’know, Robert Kimbrough and Kenny Kimbrough, and he also has a grandson by the name of Cameron Kimbrough. It’s very vibrant here, and it’s gonna continue. Hopefully after us, we’ll have another generation ready to keep it going.”

What’s your approach to the guitar when playing this particular style of blues?

“I like to keep it simple, as my granddad did. He didn’t use any pedals. I got one pedal, and it’s an A/B pedal, just a splitter. And then I have an EarthQuake­r tuner pedal. That’s just about it. I play through two amps – a Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb and an Ampeg bass amp – so I use the A/B pedal to just split ’em off so the lows can come out of the bass amp and the highs from the lead amp. That’s pretty much it, man. And then I just blast it. I just turn my amp up as loud as I can, and if I need a little bit more, I turn my guitar up. So it’s really just a simple approach for me.

“It don’t take much for the songs I write. Y’know, I just write ’em from the heart, and with my guitar playing I really play what sounds good to me. I use open G a lot, but standard tuning as well. Sometimes I might come up with a guitar riff and no lyrics. Other times I might have three songs written and then I have to find good guitar riffs for them.”

What guitars did you use on the album?

“I got a friend named Mike Aronson of Aronson Custom Guitars. He’s from a town called Blacksburg, Virginia. It’s really crazy. He was a [radiologis­t] for over 30 years – I think he just retired two years ago – but he always built guitars for a hobby. He built me a guitar based off a Les Paul style, and I forget the exact name of the pickups, but they’re similar to P-90s. He did another for me based on a Telecaster: he found the wood and he crafted that guitar for me, too. Also, last year, I bought a Gretsch G9221 resonator, and the acoustic songs that you hear on HillCountr­yLove, two of those were done with that resonator. Martin also gave me a 15M acoustic a few years ago.”

What are your plans for touring the new album around the world?

“My booking agent is working on a European tour right now. I’m hoping to be over there between the fall and winter. Look out for me! I’m definitely touring the States – I’m booked up here all the way until September.”

What are your criteria for deciding that a song is done and ready for the album?

“I try to be true to myself before I even start. I like to speak the truth in my songs – even though at times the truth can be a little harsh or embarrassi­ng. And when I write a song, I like to structure it in a specific way. So if I’m talking about hardship, y’know, I want to make sure I get the message across. Sometimes it might be a short message, sometimes a little longer. It could be a five-minute song, a three-minute song or a two-minute song. But when I feel in my heart that I got my message across, then the song is finished.”

“My big daddy used to call it ‘field music’ because those cats just played a good guitar from their heart”

 ?? ?? Cedric is carrying the torch for the rhythmic hill country blues music that his grandfathe­r, RL Burnside, used to play
Cedric is carrying the torch for the rhythmic hill country blues music that his grandfathe­r, RL Burnside, used to play
 ?? ?? HillCountr­yLove is the follow-up to Cedric Burnside’s 2021 Grammywinn­ing IBeTrying album
HillCountr­yLove is the follow-up to Cedric Burnside’s 2021 Grammywinn­ing IBeTrying album
 ?? ?? Cedric’s LP-style singlecut is a custom model made by Mike Aronson, a radiologis­t-turnedluth­ier from Virginia. It features on the album alongside his T-style guitar (opposite), another custom Aronson build
Cedric’s LP-style singlecut is a custom model made by Mike Aronson, a radiologis­t-turnedluth­ier from Virginia. It features on the album alongside his T-style guitar (opposite), another custom Aronson build
 ?? ?? HillCountr­yLove by Cedric Burnside is out now on Provogue/Mascot
www.cedricburn­side.net
HillCountr­yLove by Cedric Burnside is out now on Provogue/Mascot www.cedricburn­side.net

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