Album Reviews

Cedric Burnside – I Be Trying – Album Review

Raw, Emotive, Rich and Compelling!

A Contemporary take on Mississippi Hill Country Blues

Cedric Burnside’s latest album “I Be Trying” is out now on Single Lock Records.  After a year or more that has given many the blues, The Grandson of “Big Daddy” R L Burnside delivers his 9th Album and first since 2018’s “Benton County Relic”, in collaboration with North Mississippi Allstars bandmate guitarist Luther Dickinson.  A collection of 13 Songs – 11 originals and 2 covers – “I Be Trying” demonstrates Cedric’s mastery of the Hill Country Blues style, heavy on the drums and rhythm, few chord changes and almost improvisational riffs, the album features stories of connection, hurt and redemption in the South as Burnside’s blistering guitar riffs become one with his emotive vocal melodies; sometimes conjuring emotions that cannot always be expressed in words.  Produced by Boo Mitchell and recordedat Royal Studios in Memphis, this album may be steeped in the legacy and the history of the blues but retains a fresh and modern feel, A contemporary Black American sound that expands the sonic landscape while respecting its roots.

The opening track “The World can be so Cold” is a simple yet complex spoken word track, just Burnside and his guitar, about the need for perseverance in the face of what the world can and does throw at you.  Burnside sings about his difficult Childhood on lead Single “Step In”, and the challenges of rural poverty afflicting North Mississippi in the late 20th Century.

Title Track “I Be Trying”, featuring youngest daughter Portrika on backing vocals, is a song of redemption and, as the chorus states, “trying to do the best that I can”.  “Love is the Key” chugs along at a steady pace with touches of melody to add colour, and a near-gospel vocal that demonstrates the richness and soul of Burnside’s voice. The opening riff of “Keep on Pushing” catches the listener and holds them in its grip, drums and guitar handled by Burnside with some twisty Slide tones added by Dickinson. “Gotta Look Out” is a cautionary tale of not taking things at face value despite the funky groove.  “Pretty Flowers” keeps that funky groove going aided and abetted by deep-grooving bass lines from Alabama Shakes groove Meister, Zac Cockrell.

Cedric Burnside @ Royal Records. Credit Abraham Rowe

“Bird without a Feather” sees Burnside summoning up the spirit of his Grandaddy, R L Burnside, a cover of RL’s original, played very much in Big Daddy’s style and evoking images of the Mississippi hills of a bygone age.  Second cover on the album, of Junior Kimbrough’s “Hands Off That Girl” gets an up-tempo lift to take it into the 21st Century. Album closer “Love You Forever” has Burnside reaching for the high notes, singing in a soulful falsetto on the only track that really departs from the Hill Country style and will appeal to the more commercially minded.

All in all, for an album of such stripped back, raw and emotive songs, “I Be Trying” has a richness and soulfulness that lifts it out of the deep backwoods of the Blues and into a far more mainstream scope that will appeal to a much wider audience.

Track list

The World Can Be So Cold
Step In
I Be Trying
You Really Love Me
Love Is The Key
Keep On Pushing
Gotta Look Out
Pretty Flowers
What Makes Me Think
Bird Without a Feather
Hands Off That Girl
Get Down
Love You Forever

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