Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Album Review: Cedric Burnside - Hill Country Love

Cedric Burnside
Hill Country Love
***and1/2 out of *****

Cedric Burnside was born into the blues. The grandson of hill country blues legend RL Burnside, Cedric has been playing the family music his whole life. His previous album, I Be Trying felt like a professional breakthrough as his voice and guitar work took center stage while the blues flowed out naturally. It won Burnside a GRAMMY (along with being one of RtBE's favorite albums of 2021) and the follow up, Hill Country Love, is more of the same down-home goodness.    

The record opens positively with the upbeat blues of "I Know" using banging drums and blowing a mean harmonica. Burnside (vocals, guitar, and baritone guitar) plays with Artemas LeSueur on drums.  Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) helped produce the record and also contributed bass and slide guitars while Patrick Williams added strong harmonica work. 

The title track is a traveling song that pushes along the backroads on a great groove. The classics "Shake Em On Down" and "You Gotta Move"  are both played on acoustic with some slide work (and great harmonica from Williams on "You Gotta Move"), but neither becomes must hear versions.  The truth is Burnside can probably play these songs in his sleep, and can certainly deliver a host of different, more engaged, versions.   

The tempo shifting "Juke Joint" ebbs and flows while the band gets funky on a few tracks such as the 'my trucks falling apart' tale "Smile", the get down jam "Thank You" and "Love You Music" which is an album highlight with drumming all over the map from LeSueur. "Closer" brings in the gospel feel to Burnside's singing and lyrics while the slower "Toll On They Life" features the best vocals from Cedric as he digs deep with an extra growl expressing the pain.  

The record concludes with two jams that are album highlights. "Funky" lives up to the title as it feels like an in studio workout that evolved into a tune with more great drumming from LeSueur while "Po Black Mattie" has the same exciting live feel, but adds Dickinson's bass as the groove digs in and never let's go as the trio get after it, ending the album on a high note.  

While perhaps not as affecting as I Be Trying, Hill Country Love isn't that far removed. Burnside has established himself as the dominant purveyor of hill country blues and an artist not afraid to shape that genre's future sounds while respecting the past. 
Support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

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