What a night of high expectations as Blues fans that appreciate the Hill Country blend gathered at The Louisiana, Bristol to hear and enjoy Cedric Burnside with live tracks from his current Grammy-nominated album, Benton County Relic played for us. Before the main act, we had forty minutes of Bristol-based punk-blues duo Husky Tones.
With Chris Harper on guitars and Victoria Bourne standing and playing drums and singing, this marmite act will always deliver a dynamic set dissipating the energy of the songs from their current album, I Don’t Give A Damn Anymore. They blend the roots of blues, hill country music with a punkish British edge that is at times anarchic not falling into the tones and textures we would expect from an act with Blues as part of the genre description. Their songs all have a deep meaning personal and political. Spanning the centuries from now to back to John Ball in the 14th Century and the Peasant’s Revolt through to today and living on benefits. The anger, and disassociation of people from society run through the set and is reflected in the sound they produce. Chris’ slide guitar and dirty licks are always a feature that builds the energy and ensures shape of the sound is maintained, allowing Victoria the freedom to explore the beats and sing the songs. With Uncle Walter, transported to Australia and Who Will I Turn To Now, there is real anger in the sound that Chris generates. We even had a re-working of a Cedric Burnside number Wash My Hands played for him as they are real fans of the main act to follow after a short break. They have a following in Bristol and this guaranteed to swell the numbers no wonder this small and bijou venue was sold out as we all waited for a Burnside to play for us tonight.
When expectations are high, live music on occasion disappoints. Not tonight it delivered more that our collective expectations. Why? Cedric Burnside is the real deal. He is rooted deep in the Mississippi Hill Country Blues and he is the link to generations past. He still lives not far from where he was raised by his Grandfather R.L. Burnside and to Cedric he will always be “Big Daddy”. Tonight was a celebration of his latest album Benton County Relic, music played live free and full of vibrant energy. The house may have been crowded, the audience was silent! Showing pure respect for the duo tonight bringing such wonderful music to us tonight.
Cedric started the night with a few numbers on solo acoustic; the guitar sang in perfect harmony with his voice. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, a great story teller, I wish there had been more time but with a tight ninety-minute set it was all about playing the music.
As the acoustic set drew to a close Cedric was joined by Brian Jay, as the set turned electric. Brian was the producer of the album and a mighty fine musician, as he sat behind the drums, and played with determination despite a poorly bass drum, with a broken foot that insisted on moving with the beat. What a beat, what a vibe, this is a duo that feels the music making the blues hot. We had a swap round, Cedric sat behind the drums, his grooves were pure Hill Country with the playing of Cody Dickinson evoked from when I heard him play with the North Mississippi All-stars in Bristol a few years ago. Brian, was now upfront on his Les Paul, what a mighty tone, whether the textured delight of his slide playing or manipulating the strings with his fingers. The music flowed with It’s Hard To Stay Cool and truly magnificent live moment as the number explored the emotions of loss of family.
Those present tonight were very lucky. Tonight I was reminded why I love Mississippi Hill Country Blues so much it is its vibrant energy. Free-flowing the feeling of a jam never sure what was coming next and yet the musicians are in total control of the sound. A totally entrancing set of live music. Whether it was Cedric on singing the vocals, electric Guitar or drums and vice versa for Brian every number bounced with dancing energy it was impossible to stay still. We loved the live version of Typical Day, an autobiographical song about Cedric’s typical day, writing songs, playing guitar making the most of life. We had a tribute to the late great RL Burnside; with the traditional Death Bell Blues or Ain’t No Messing with You. What a night we wanted it to go on and on, sadly a strict 10.30pm curfew meant that was not possible. But with demands of more Cedric ignored the rules and played another real quick number. He sang All Night Long and we would have liked that to have been a reality, but sadly not to be as the music stopped. Come back very soon Cedric your music is the perfect antidote to Wednesday night Blues. Thank you for bringing authentic Mississippi Hill Country to The Louisiana tonight you were wonderful.
UK Tour Dates not to be missed
Feb 14th The Blues Kitchen, Camden, LondonFeb 15th Cluny 2 Newcastle Feb 16th McChuills, Glasgow Feb 17th St Mary’s A Creative Space, Chester