Album Review: Cedric Burnside brings us a breath of fresh air with some sweet Hill Country Love

The Breakdown

Provogue 9.0

Grammy Award winning bluesman, Cedric Burnside returns with his latest long-play offering, Hill Country Love, 14 tracks of authentic Mississippi hill country blues which is the follow-up to his Grammy Award winning album of 2021, I Be Trying.

Not content to sit on his laurels, the album sees Burnside digging into both his personal life and the rich tradition of the music he grew up with, to write and produce his latest, and arguably best, record.

As Burnside himself says “Every time I write an album, it’s always different. I’m always looking to express myself a little bit better than I did on the last one and talk about more things that happen in my life. I think that every day that you’re able to open your eyes, life is gonna throw you something to write about and to talk about.”

“So on this album,” he continues, “I’m a little bit more upfront and direct, because I went through some crazy feelings with family and with friends. Winning the Grammy was awesome, but people tend to treat you a little different when things like that happen.”

Burnside continues to bring a truly authentic sound which has its’ roots firmly based in the traditional sounds of the hill country of Mississippi and even harking back to the sounds of West Africa where the style likely has its’ origins.

The Mississippi hill country music style is characterized by the heavy use of polyrhythmic, droning sounds with unpredictable chord progressions and bar counts. This is highly evident in the introduction of the track Love You Music and throughout the album opener, I Know.

While the album is highly traditional in nature, it doesn’t mean that Burnside doesn’t incorporate some modern twists to the music. Bringing in Luther Dickinson (from the widely-acclaimed North Mississippi Allstars) to partner him in co-producing the album, recording was done in an un-named building in Ripley, Mississippi, a small town widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the hill country blues, with all of the songs being recorded in just 2 days. Aside from Cedric Burnside himself on guitars and his usual drummer Artemas LeSeur, they added Dickinson on bass and slide guitar, and Patrick Williams on harmonica.

The addition of bass, slide guitar and harmonica, along with the fact that Burnside plays electric guitar throughout the album, gives the music that 21st century feel, despite the actual music style remaining rooted to its’ traditions. Tracks such as the aforementioned I Know and Coming Real To Ya along with Funky and Po Black Mattie lend an air of swagger and full body drive and contemporary feel.

Songs such as the title track Hill Country Love, Shake Em On Down, Juke Joint and Strong, along with the Mississippi Fred McDowell classic, You Gotta Move all tip their hats to a bygone era which saw Cedric’s grandfather, the late RL Burnside along with other greats such as Junior Kimbrough, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Otha Turner bring the style to the fore.

This is an album in which he has been able to show his love for the music that he was brought up on, and has consequently inherited. “Big Daddy’s music, Junior’s music, Mister Otha’s music – my music is similar to theirs, but I’m a younger generation. Whether we want to or not, we move on, and so my music will automatically sound a little more modern. But even if I tried to sound really modern, that old feel and old sound is just there. You might hear a song and think. ‘Wow, that sounds like it was recorded in 1959.’ I like that, but it’s really just me growing up around it and falling in love with that sound” he says.

Hill Country Love is released on Friday, 5th April 2024 on Provogue Records and can be pre-ordered here or from your favourite streaming service following release.

Feature Photo Credit: Jim Arbogast

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