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Cedric Burnside brings his blues heritage to Ballard's Tractor Tavern

Cedric Burnside's latest album Hill Country Love came out April 5, 2024.
Cedric Burnside's latest album Hill Country Love came out April 5, 2024.

Cedric Burnside carries the legacy and the future of North Mississippi, or Hill Country blues, and he’ll be at the Tractor Tavern on May 23.

Starting in 2001, he’s released 11 albums, and won numerous Blues Music Awards for his drumming, and won a Grammy award in 2022 for Best Traditional blues album, I Be Tryin’. Burnside is a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts and was recently recognized with the 2024 Mississippi Governor's Art Award for Excellence in Music.

His father Calvin Jackson was a blues drummer and his grandfather “Big Daddy” RL Burnside is perhaps the most famous musician to play North Mississippi blues. Burnside went on the road at age 13 as Big Daddy’s drummer, but these days is standing up front, singing and playing his guitar. His new album Hill Country Love came out in April of this year.

In a recent interview, one of the first things we talked about was the difference between Hill Country blues and other forms like Delta blues or Chicago blues. Burnside explained that Hill Country blues does not stick to a rigid format, like the more familiar 12 or 16-bar blues, that have chord changes at predictable intervals. He talked about using unorthodox rhythms and described it as “droning” and “mesmerizing.”

He learned to play drums by watching his father and other drummers in the area, and began drumming himself at age 10 at a local juke joint. That led to discussion about the role that juke joints played in everyday life, serving as church, school and community center. Burnside said that he’s been actively looking to open his own juke joint in Ripley, Mississippi.

The new album was produced with Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars, another successful Hill Country band. He and Dickinson have been friends since they were 15 years old and Burnside said that working with him in the studio was a “spiritual time.”

The album contains a mix of original songs as well as some key songs from Hill Country history. Burnside said it was his way of showing appreciation and respect, and wanted to carry on their musical legacy.

Burnside will spread his Hill Country sound with six upcoming Pacific Northwest shows:

  • May 20 at Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend, OR
  • May 21 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, OR
  • May 23 at Tractor Tavern in Seattle
  • May 24 at Wild Buffalo in Bellingham
  • May 25 at Fox Cabaret in Vancouver, BC
  • May 26 at Wicket Hall in Victoria

Burnside will also pay a visit to KNKX's Seattle Studios for an exclusive studio session. Follow KNKX on Instagram and YouTube to see this and more KNKX Studio Sessions.

John has worked as a professional bassist for 20 years, including a 15 year stint as Musical Director of the Mountain Stage radio program. John has been at KNKX since 1999 where he hosts “All Blues”, is producer of the BirdNote radio program, and co-hosts “Record Bin Roulette”. John is also the recording engineer for KNKX “In-Studio Performances”. Not surprisingly, John's main musical interests are jazz and blues, and he is still performing around Seattle.