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KNKX welcomes Cedric Burnside for a burning blues performance

Cedric Burnside made his first trip to the KNKX studios on May 23 for a solo studio session, performing songs from his new album Hill Country Love.

He and his band were on their way to the Tractor Tavern for a show that night.

Burnside won a Grammy award in 2022 for Best Traditional blues album with I Be Tryin’, and is a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

His grandfather “Big Daddy” R.L. Burnside is perhaps the most famous musician to play North Mississippi or “Hill Country blues,” and so the younger Burnside carries both the legacy and future of 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.

During his visit to the KNKX Seattle Studios, he treated the studio audience to an impromptu demonstration contrasting traditional and Hill Country 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.”

Burnside learned to play drums as a child by watching 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 music venue, school and community center. Burnside said that a juke joint was not necessarily a permanent venue but could happen anytime that someone opened their house to the public.

Burnside went on to say that he’s been actively looking to open his own juke joint in his hometown of Ripley, Mississippi.

The new album Hill Country Love, released in April 2024, 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 including the traditional songs was his way of showing appreciation and respect to his elders and wanted to carry on the musical legacy of Hill Country blues.

We wrapped up the discussion talking about his interest in birds, and how he is training to be a falconer. Listen to Cedric Burnside flying high with the blues in this KNKX studio session.


  • Cedric Burnside - vocals, acoustic guitar


  1. Comin' Real to Ya
  2. Closer
  3. Toll on They Life
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.
Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.
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