Anthony “Big A” Sherrod is a young Mississippi bluesman, schooled by a noted blues teacher in the area, “Mr. Johnnie” Billington, who taught not only the music but the value of hard work and knowledge of the culture and history from which Mississippi blues emerged, a world where the musicians worked at very hard, low-paying agricultural jobs.
Guitar is Big A’s main instrument, though he plays bass, drums, and keyboards as well. Big A and his band were regulars at Sarah’s Kitchen, one of the area’s major blues venues until proprietor Sarah Moore was killed in an auto crash, and the restaurant went out of business. He has played at numerous other clubs and events in the Delta area.
Recordings of Big A are few; he appears on bass with Alvin “Youngblood” Hart and the late, great drummer Sam Carr on a song called “Joe Friday” in the 2003 film “Last Of The Mississippi Jukes.” Alvin Youngblood Hart notes in his intro that Sherrod has been playing blues in the area from a very young age. Sherrod is also featured in the 2012 film “We Juke Up In Here,” now as the band leader. He offers a spirited performance of a song called “Call Me A Lover” in the best tradition of male boasting (along with a bit of humor), and he also wrote and plays the title track for the film. Big A is an exciting performer who freely moves around a performance space with some fancy footwork.
In videos posted online, Sherrod can be seen playing around Clarksdale, including a spirited, bluesified version of a children’s song “Patty Cake Patty Cake,” obviously pleasing his audiences and deriving pleasure from performing.
Music and family came together for Cedric Burnside, a grandson of the famed hill country blues artist R. L. Burnside. Cedric became known for his high-spirited drumming in his grandfather’s band, which can be heard on albums such as “Burnside On Burnside” featuring R. L. Burnside and his band in a club on Burnside Avenue in Portland, OR.
Cedric also recorded with his uncle Garry Burnside, who is, despite that relationship, a peer of Cedric’s, and brother Cody Burnside on an edgy album called “Burnside Exploration” in 2006, which revealed his considerable talent as a songwriter and singer. The album included old country blues favorites like “Long Haired Dony” along with striking originals such as “One Cold And Lonely Night.”
Later Burnside teamed up with guitarist Lightnin’ Malcolm to tour and produce a couple of albums of strong modern rural Mississippi blues. “The Two Man Wrecking Crew” album won them a Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist Debut” in 2009, and Burnside got the BMA honor for “Drummer of the Year” the following year (and repeated that with a win in 2011). Burnside and Malcolm toured with the Big Head Blues Club to celebrate the Robert Johnson Centennial, and they contributed several songs to that group’s “100 Years Of Robert Johnson” CD.
Although Burnside was primarily the drummer and Malcolm the guitarist, they could, and did, switch roles at times, and with his new Cedric Burnside Project in 2011, Cedric Burnside plays both instruments, his guitar style very reminiscent of his late grandfather’s. Brother Cody and uncle Garry round out The Cedric Burnside Project (guitarist Trenton Ayres has now joined the band since the CD “The Way I Am” was recorded). On this album, Burnside incorporates some rapping, though his guitar playing is still clearly hill country blues, and his drumming is as extraordinary as ever. With songs like “Holly Springs” and “The World Don’t Owe You Nothing” they are thoroughly contemporary and also right in the heart of the hill country blues tradition.