Cedric Burnside Talks Learning The Blues From His Grandfather (Some Guy Named RL Burnside).
Drummer and vocalist Cedric Burnside, grandson of the late, great blues guitarist R.L. Burnside, brings his brand of funk-infused delta blues to the House of Blues tomorrow night for a free 9 o'clock show in the venue's restaurant.
The 30-year-old Burnside, who grew up playing in juke joints and started touring with his grandfather at 13, has seen his career surge in the last couple of years: He was featured playing drums with Samuel L. Jackson in the Craig Brewer film Black Snake Moan (if you haven't seen it, do so immediately), and recorded 2 Man Wrecking Crew with vocalist and guitarist Lightnin' Malcolm in just three days--quite a feat, even if the duo was working with producer David Z (Etta James, Prince, B.B. King). Burnside took a few minutes to chat with DC9 on Wednesday before leaving his Mississippi home for the drive to Big D.
What was it like learning to play music with your grandfather?
We didn't have a radio. My grandad and them used to have house parties--they'd set up all the house parties and all the grandkids would be there kicking up dust to the music.
Why'd you choose to play drums?
Drums was always something I wanted to play--beatin' on buckets and tables. I'd just get on the drums and beat on 'em. It didn't matter if I didn't play 'em that good, I just liked the drums.
What are your favorite memories of your grandfather?
[Laughter.] There's so many. He was just a cool guy--I miss him a
lot and love him dearly. He taught me so much on he road; he taught me
how to pack lunches so I can eat in the middle of the night, and he
cracked me up all the time telling jokes. I started touring with him at
13--in Toronto. I had butterflies. I was nervous. I was used to playing
at juke joints, with people dancing and kicking up dust around home, so
when I got up there, it was totally different.
What was it like to participate in the making of Black Snake Moan?
Craig Brewer, he loved my granddad's music and wanted to do a movie
on my granddad. He called Fat Possum [Records, R.L.'s label] and asked
for the next best thing, which was his band, me and Kenny Brown.
[Asked about the scene where he's playing drums alongside with Samuel L. Jackson on guitar in a juke packed with drinking, ass-shaking revelers, he described it as "crazy but real good." He also pointed out that, while the film's a tribute to his grandfather, "Everything in the movie is not true. You know, my granddad didn't tie a white woman up..."]
When I'm doing shows, they've been saying, 'I saw you in the movie Black Snake Moan.' It's boosted my career up a bit. I thank God for that. I never thought I'd be in any movie. I never thought drums would take me this far. I thank God for that--God and RL Burnside."
What's your process writing music?
Most of my songs are written sitting in my front room or my bedroom. I try to write my music according to the way I live. Some of it might be kinda sad, but that's what I go through; some of it might seem mean, but I got the mean blues, that's what I feel.
What are your favorite tracks on 2 Man Wrecking Crew?
I love "R.L. Burnside" ["From 6 to 18 I lived with
you/Almost everything that I know I learned from you/I was a little
hard-headed, I made a lot of people mad/But you stayed on me, got me on
the right path, and boy, I'm glad/Most of y'all know him as R.L.
Burnside, but to me he's Big Daddy] and "She's Got Something On Me",
and Malcolm's song, "So Much Love."
How would you describe your music?
It's got a lot of energy so definitely be ready to shake your rump. And we bring a lot of energy to our music, too. When I'm up there I love to dance with my music, so if im not dancing something's wrong.
Cedric Burnside and Lightning Malcolm's Juke Joint Duo perform Saturday, January 10, at the House of Blues' restaurant stage.