Blues musician Cedric Burnside kicked off his steamy, mid-day set on the Biltmore Ave. stage playing solo guitar. And thanking his late grandfather. Cedric inherited the blues from patriarch and legendary bluesman R.L. Burnside — in the song “R.L. Burnside,” Cedric sings about how his grandfather (“Big Daddy”) bought him a drum kit when he was 16. Everything he does, now and forever, is in the memory of R.L., says Cedric.
These days, fronting his own trio (with younger brother Cody Burnside supporting on vocals and guitarist Jesse Hiatt, who plays whenever Cedric gets behind the drum kit), Cedric has ample opportunity to showcase his own talent as an axeman and vocalist. His guitar work is fairly simple, a couple of chords and the drone of rhythm supporting his voice. Cedric sings in a warm baritone that rumbles at the bottom end and shows bite at the top end. On “Hill County Blues,” Corey added vocals, a few rhymes and some formidable bass notes.
Before moving from guitar to drums, Cedric announced that he’d just been named blues drummer of the year for the second year running — an honor he attributed to his fans. “So I love y’all for that shit,” he said.
Behind the drum kit, Cedric’s demeanor seemed to change from serious to downright cheerful. Wearing a huge smile, he covered both percussion and vocals on “Put the Past Behind,” “I Wash My Hands” and another song in tribute to R.L. that Cedric introduced as “Well Well Well,” something his grandfather was fond of saying.
Cody sat in for a number of songs, but at times it was just Cedric and Hiatt on stage, cranking out a blistering, raw, Mississippi-brand of blues that had little need for any instrumentation behind the two musicians.