Mississippi Hill Country Blues Musician Cedric Burnside Named NEA National Heritage Fellow

JACKSON, MISS. – June 16, 2021– Hill Country Blues Musician Cedric Burnside, of Ashland, has been named as one of the 2021 National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellows. As one of only nine in the nation, NEA National Heritage Fellowships are considered the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts.

A blues guitarist, drummer, singer, and songwriter, Burnside tells the story of the Black American experience from the heart of the North Mississippi Hill Country. The grandson of Hill Country blues luminary R.L. Burnside, Cedric spent his youth carefully studying his blues elder, playing alongside him at house gatherings and juke joint gigs. By age 13, he was on the road accompanying his grandfather’s band on drums and coming of age as an artist in a distinct blues tradition.

“Quite simply, I’m honored,” said Cedric Burnside. “The more I’ve learned about the award, the more I’m just thankful. Thankful to my Big Daddy R.L. Burnside for what he’s given to my family and thankful to the Lord for what he’s given to me. I think it’s the beginning of a very special time for me. I’m just honored today.”

Burnside’s work spans three decades and includes nine individual and collaborative albums and has earned numerous accolades. He has received multiple Blues Music Awards for his work as a drummer, a GRAMMY nomination for the 2015 album project Descendants of Hill Country and another for his solo recording, 2018’s Benton County Relic.

“What an amazing and well-deserved honor for Cedric Burnside,” said Sarah Story, executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. “He is truly among the best of the best folk and traditional artists in the nation. We thank the National Endowment for the Arts for recognizing Cedric’s undeniable talent and for honoring those who keep America’s cultural and artistic traditions alive.”

The National Endowment for the Arts has honored the rich, artistic heritage of America through the NEA National Heritage Fellowships since 1982. This honor includes an award of $25,000 to each of the nine recipients, who will be featured in a film that will debut on November 17, 2021 on arts.gov.

“The diverse art forms of the National Heritage Fellows allow us to experience and appreciate the rich cultural traditions that make up America,” said Ann Eilers, acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts. “It is inspiring how these artistic practices continue the legacy of generations past, while blending contemporary elements as they continue into the future.”

Since the NEA began the National Heritage Fellowship program, five Mississippi artists have received this distinction, including B.B. King, Jack Owens, Hystercine Rankin, Othar Turner and Elder Roma.

Contact:  Anna Ehrgott | Communications Director | aehrgott@arts.ms.gov | (601) 359-6546