Pew grant brings Mississippi hill-country musicians to Philly Folk Fest

At the 51st Philadelphia Folk Festival this weekend, some musicians were brought in from Mississippi with grant money from the Pew Foundation.


One of them is Cedric Burnside from Holly Springs, Mississippi, the grandson of R.L. Burnside, who achieved fame late in life when his raw, hill-country guitar style was embraced by the post-punk rock band The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. R.L. Burnside died in 2005.

“When you been around somebody all your life, you tend to do things like ’em,” said Cedric Burnside, who now plays under his own name. “You know, walk like ’em, talk like ’em. I been around my granddad’s music all my life, and that’s pretty much all I know.”

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Cedric Burnside’s performance on Sunday afternoon, along with a set by fellow Mississippian Big George Brock, is the first installment of the Mississippi Blues Project, a series of concerts produced by radio station WXPN. With a $135,000 grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the project will bring little-known musicians to Philadelphia, guys with names like Super Chikan and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes.

“The average person — even someone who knows something about blues and would name somebody like B.B. King and Muddy Waters without difficulty — probably never heard of Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean and Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, and artists like that,” said WXPN blues DJ Jonny Meister, who helped coordinate the concerts. “So this is new. This is new to the area and new to people.”

Meister says most Philadelphia blues venues will not book obscure artists. For example, Cedric Burnside, who plays regularly throughout the Southern United States and just came back from a tour of Eastern Europe, could not otherwise get a gig in Philadelphia.


The other three concerts will be as follows:

Terry “Harmonica” Bean / Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Oct. 22; World Cafe Live

Anthony “Big A” Sherrod / Robert Belfour – Feb. 15, 2013; XPN Free at Noon, World Cafe Live

Homemade Jamz Blues Band / Super Chikan – May 16, 2013; World Cafe Live

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