The difference between knowin’ and readin’

Feb 10, 2010 at 6:00 am

Mississippi has always been a dynamic place — rich in history, steeped in tragedy and stifled by thick summer heat you can almost see rising off swamp water. Small wonder that, in the end of the 19th century, blues emerged as a voice for the downtrodden, oppressed folks of the Delta. More than 100 years later, the blues remain a tradition in the region, and no family is revered more than the Burnsides.

Beginning with the late R.L. Burnside in the 1960s, a legacy was launched.

“I’ve got seven uncles and four aunts … five of my seven uncles play,” says Cedric Burnside, R.L.’s grandson. Cedric is a drummer and vocalist who, along with guitarist-singer Lightnin’ Malcolm, will perform at Stevie Ray’s Sunday, playing material off of their most recent, 2 Man Wrecking Crew. Cedric promises the next album will be a family affair. “(It) features my little brother Cody Burnside. And I got (my daughters) all guitars for Christmas. They have really beautiful voices, as well — so hopefully they’ll be our future.”

In his slow north Mississippi drawl, Cedric distinguishes between knowing the blues and reading it. “Knowin’ ’bout the blues and readin’ ’bout the blues is totally different,” he clarifies. “A lot of people seem to think blues is (about) just one thing: killin’ someone. It can be about that, but a bad relationship or your wife leavin’ you can be the blues. You can have problems wit’ ya kids not understandin’ you, and you not understandin’ what’s goin’ on wit’ them — that can be the blues. The blues can be a lot of things. You just have to live it, and understand it, and be able to come out of it and sing about it.”

Cedric first hit the road backing his grandfather at the age of 13. “I always say, ‘Thank God for everything and R.L. Burnside,” he says of the man he knew as “Big Daddy.”

Since then, Cedric has become one of the most revered drummers in the industry, playing with North Mississippi Allstars and Widespread Panic, and lesser-known Mississippi blues legends like T-Model Ford and Junior Kimbrough. “I’m proud to be from Mississippi,” Cedric says of his home. “And I have to say that as long as I’m livin’, I’ll be playin’ the blues.”

Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm
Sunday, Feb. 14
Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar
230 E. Main St.
$12; 6 p.m.