by Rick Grant Commentary
The cool sounds of blues beckoned me to the 19th George’s Music Springing the Blues Festival. For my wife and I, the Festival’s Executive Director, Sam Veal, his wife and kids and crew are like family. I’ve been covering this major blues event for the entire 19 years of its existence.
Despite our country’s serious economic downturn this year, miraculously, Sam pulled off another exciting lineup of authentic blues talent, presenting the Festival free to the public. The Festival celebrates blues and the arrival of spring. George Hines of George’s Music was on hand to give away an autographed guitar and in turn, Sam Veal presented George with a nicely framed souvenir enlargement of EU Jacksonville’s front cover with George pictured with about $100,000 of great guitars. Its time for spring and the blues so let your freak flag fly and welcome the blessed blossoming of bikinis.
This year, the group that caught my interest was formed by the grandson of the late great R.L. Burnside, Cedric Burnside on drums and his songwriting partner, guitarist Lightning’ Malcolm. So I checked out the group’s new record, 2 Man Wrecking Crew on Rhapsody. I liked it so much I downloaded the album.
Cedric Burnside wrote a song about his famous grandfather aptly titled R.L Burnside. Like all the songs on the 2 Man Wrecking Crew CD, the cut is built on a catchy minimalist groove by wunderkind guitarist, Lightnin’ Malcolm. This style of songwriting conjures up modern rock and hip-hop influences. The relentless rhythm and uncluttered single note structure burns itself into one’s soul like a branding iron.
The recording session that produced this record features mostly the duo setup. But on certain songs, there are guest performers and throughout the sessions, a bassist. On stage at the Festival, Cedric and Lightnin’ performed without a bass player, which tested their musicianship. They passed with flying colors. Most people didn’t notice there was no bass. It was a bold move either out of necessity or planned-I never found out.
Born and raised around Holly Springs, Mississippi, Cedric has been playing music all of his life. His drum style is influenced by many different major dudes on traps. But, his relentless, funk-a-delic rhythm is out front along with his powerful voice on lead vocals.
Cedric met Lightnin’ by playing in many of the same Mississippi blues bands with such greats as Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, Otha Turner, Robert Belfour, Hubert Sumlin, and the North Mississippi All-stars. This new blues sound is old school and revolutionary, simultaneously.
After Cedric and Lightnin’s awesome set, I stayed for the legendary Eddie Shaw and Wolf Gang show, featuring badass guitarist Eddie Shaw Jr. burning up the stage. Eddie Sr. is 73 (it was his birthday) but loves to perform and he had the crowd grooving to his traditional blues repertoire. Near where I was sitting, a full figured black lady was getting her boogie down to Eddie’s beat and his cool saxophone playing. Eddie Shaw Jr. lived up to his reputation as a major guitar slinger. But Eddie Sr. was in charge with his crowd pleasing antics.
After Eddie’s set he received the key to the city from Beaches mayor. “Now, I can come back anytime I want, I’ve got the key!” Eddie said. Yeah, he’s an old pro who can whip an audience into a frenzy with his musicianship and rap. I appreciate Eddie Shaw much more now that we both are approaching serious old age. God bless those original blues artists who are slowly passing on to the big band on the other side. Imagine that lineup. Yewow.
It was another great Springtime kick-off at George’s Music Springing The Blues. The crowds were enthusiastic and the performers must really love playing here because they put on an outstanding weekend of great music.
George's Music Springing The Blues Festival 2009
by Rick Grant Commentary