Cedric Burnside Credit: Abraham Rowe

It’s been said that you don’t really notice a heyday till it’s over, and the decade from the mid-1990s till the mid-2000s was a glorious time for modern Delta blues. Artists such as T-Model Ford, Paul “Wine” Jones, and Robert “Bilbo” Walker came into the national spotlight playing blues festivals and rock clubs alike, proving that authentic blues could cross over between audiences and generations—and those bluesmen certainly rocked. Several of them recorded for the Fat Possum label (which also made the occasional odd attempt at incorporating hip-hop and techno into southern trance blues), but sadly most of the musicians were so advanced in age that many passed away within a few years of their newfound celebrity. The kingpin of that loose group was R.L. Burnside, who was a point man of Mississippi juke-joint blues until his death in 2005. His grandson Cedric began touring with him as a drummer in his early teens, and after playing in a variety of projects of his own, he started stepping out as a formidable singer-guitarist. Cedric knows how to hang on one chord and groove the way his grandfather and his contemporaries did, and rather than reworking older standards, he writes new lyrics to go along with familiar grooves. And though a touch of funk shows up every now and then, he never strays into blooze-rock territory. I’m inclined to believe that there’s still a viable Delta blues scene in Mississippi, even though it doesn’t get the exposure it did in the 90s, when the press popularized the term “punk blues” as a hook. Punk or not, Cedric Burnside keeps those classic blues feelings going strong.   v