Native Sons feat. Steve Azar + Cedric Burnside

Music & Culture Ambassador of Mississippi, Steve Azar, is a modern day renaissance man, hit songwriter, recording artist, music producer, talk show host, golfer and philanthropist. Steve likes to call his own breed of music “Delta Soul,” a mixture of country, rock and blues.

His debut album Waitin’ On Joe was released in 2001. The title track went to #1 on CMT and featured Academy award-winning actor Morgan Freeman. From the same album the hit single “I Don’t Have To Be Me, Til Monday” received three Million-Air awards from BMI and is one of the top five most played songs of the past decade on country radio. Turn on the radio today, and you’ll likely hear it.

Taylor Swift told People Magazine in 2010 that her favorite song of the year was Steve Azar’s “Sunshine.” Slide On Over Here, featuring the hit single “Sunshine,” was spotlighted in Oprah’s O Magazine in her Top Things to Buy At Christmas edition in 2011. “Sunshine” was also featured in US Weekly Magazine in June 2012 as one of the most popular celebrity wedding songs.

Steve has written, and recorded songs for film and has been the music supervisor for a number of movies. “Doin’ It Right” (Delta Mix) off of the latest release Delta Soul Volume One, was the feature track for Sony Pictures 2013 movie Here Comes The Boom starring Kevin James and Salma Hayek. As a songwriter, Reba McEntire among many others have cut his songs.

In 2007, Azar was personally chosen by Bob Seger to perform 46 shows on what has been rated the #1 Tour in America by Pollstar Magazine.

2017 governor Phil Bryant appointed Steve as the official Music & Culture Ambassador of Mississippi and is working closely with the State of Mississippi in his official role. This position enables him to continue making a positive impact on the State’s tourism and economy. His Delta Soul Celebrity Golf & Charity Event and Mighty Mississippi Music Festival add millions in economic impact to the State every year. As Ambassador Steve can make an even larger impact. He remains as the ambassador to date.

Steve is the recipient of the 2018 prestigious Governor's Choice Award given by the Mississippi Arts Commission annually.

An accomplished golfer, Steve has been ranked one of the top five musicians that play golf by Golf Digest Magazine numerous times. He is a frequent guest at charity golf tournaments across the country. In 2006, Steve and his wife Gwen started the Steve Azar St. Cecilia Foundation, and annually host the Delta Soul Celebrity Golf & Charity Event. Since it’s inception, the foundation has channeled nearly $800,000.00 to many worthwhile causes in the Delta and beyond. Steve has additionally raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable causes through the auctioning of songs. These songs are written for the highest bidder’s charity of choice.

Steve has been honored with “Steve Azar day” in the states of Mississippi (on March 13th) and South Dakota (on August 10th). He is the co-founder of Ride Records and in 2013 co-founded the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, dubbed “A Southern Gem” by the American Blues Scene magazine and included in Acoustic Guitar magazine’s 2014 Roadside Americana: 50 States 50 Must-Attend Events. With a keen interest in mentorship and giving back to the Delta, Steve enjoys being the artist in residence at the Delta Music Institute, part of Delta State University.

In April of 2016, Steve became the first artist to record a full-length studio album at the legendary Mississippi landmark, Club Ebony. A long time in the making, and his first record in 5 years, Steve cut 13 new original tracks. The club, now belonging to the BB King Museum, was turned into a recording studio capturing the rich history and vibe of the room and in turn inspiring incredible performances on the record. The album was made with the participation of The Kings Men, a group of musicians who backed BB King, Elvis Presley, and other musical Kings. The combination of Steve’s Delta songwriting approach and the band's musical background has created a unique and soulful sound that audiences will be hearing in the later part of 2017. This is an authentic Delta Soul record.

Steve Azar & The Kings Men made their live debut headlining 2016’s BB King Homecoming Festival. The band headlined Mississippi Night At The GRAMMY’s in Los Angeles February 2017, and are the headliner of Mississippi’s Bicentennial Celebration in Jackson, MS.The new record is accompanied by a full-length feature documentary combining the making of the record with the musical trajectory of The Kings Men and the Mississippi Delta’s important musical influence on the world music scene. The film, titled Something In The Water, was released on Stingray/Qello August of 2018.

“In A Mississippi Minute With Steve Azar”, radio show and podcast hit the airwaves and web in January 2018. Partnering up with Supertalk Mississippi Radio Group from its inception, the show has become a big hit with listeners.

Steve wrote “Fly”, the official song for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail. His performance at the opening ceremonies reached an audience of one billion households. “Fly” was also used as the feature song for Sony Pictures movie: Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 starring actor Kevin James.

He started a weekly cooking segment on ThreadMB, an e-zine that combines Mom Bloggers and Celebrities sharing their inspiring charitable endeavors. The blog reaches millions of readers each month and the segment allowed Steve to have fun in the kitchen while promoting the farm to fork lifestyle.

Governor Paul R. LePage has requested that all the Governors in the United States use Steve’s song, “The Sky is Falling,” as a way to spread awareness about the serious issue of human trafficking in America.

Steve is an in-demand keynote speaker. His speeches highlight the importance of giving back and that it is never too soon to start. From the sports world to the world of entertainment, Steve has had success and has also had his share of trials and tribulations; his speeches are full of the lessons learned.

In 2007 Steve narrated "Second Crossing: The Making of The Mississippi Bridge" for Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). In 2016 his voice was used for a series of 12 short documentaries celebrating MDOT’s 100th Anniversary.

2017 marks the bicentennial of the state of Mississippi. Steve has been appointed Music & Culture Ambassador of Mississippi and is working closely with the State of Mississippi in his official role. This position enables him to continue making a positive impact on the State’s tourism and economy. His Delta Soul Celebrity Golf & Charity Event and Mighty Mississippi Music Festival add millions in economic impact to the state every year.

As ambassador Steve is making an even larger impact. Steve is the recipient of the 2018 prestigious Mississippi Arts Commission“Governor's Choice Award”. In January 2018, Steve began hosting his own radio show and podcast “In A Mississippi Minute with Steve Azar”. Steve takes on the other side of the interview asking the questions and talking with friends from all walks of celebrity sharing their stories to success and what’s going on in their lives now. The show is broadcast throughout the state on SuperTalk Mississippi radio network and available nationally online and via podcast. In February of 2019, he co-founded and hosted his first Mockingbird Music Series. A bi-monthly musical dinner series featuring intimate performances with some of Nashville’s best and prolific award-winning songwriters, telling the stories behind their hits and performing them as originally written.He was named to the 2019 class of Mississippi Top 50 in the Business, Media and Culture category. Mississippi Top 50is an annual list of the people who are judged to be the most influential leaders in the state. This bipartisan selection of leaders comes from the ranks of elected and appointed officials, economic development professionals, business, media and government affairs.For more information visit: www.steveazar.com & www.steveazarandthekingsmen.com

“My school was a juke joint/From a kid till I was grown/And blues is really/All I ever known”
“Ain’t Gonna Take No Mess”

Take one glance at the iconic tintype photograph which serves as the cover to his new album, Benton County Relic, and you know immediately that Cedric Burnside is the real deal. “When I first saw it, I thought I looked like an outlaw,” he laughs.

The 39-year-old still lives on several acres not far from the Holly Springs, Mississippi, home where he was raised by “Big Daddy,” his grandfather, the late singer/songwriter/guitarist R.L. Burnside whom Cedric famously played with, just as his own father, drummer Calvin Jackson, did. Cedric was literally born to the blues, more specifically, the “rhythmically unorthodox” Hill country variant which emerged from Mississippi, where he grew up surrounded (and influenced) by Junior Kimbrough, Jessie May Hemphill and Otha Turner, as well as delta musicians T-Model Ford and Paul “Wine” Jones.

Grammy-nominated in 2015 for Best Blues Album for the Cedric Burnside Project’s Descendants of Hill Country, as well as the recipient of the Blues Music Awards honor as Drummer of the Year for four consecutive years, Cedric’s latest album offers a showcase for his electric and acoustic guitar, recording 26 tracks in just two days with drummer/slide guitarist Brian Jay in the latter’s Brooklyn home studio in a rush of creativity. It’s his first release for Single Lock Records, the Florence, Alabama label headquartered across the Tennessee River from the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and responsible for critically acclaimed records by John Paul White, Nicole Atkins, Dylan LeBlanc and St. Paul & the Broken Bones.



And while Cedric humbly refers to himself in the album’s title, the music within is anything but ancient, the rich tradition of Hill country blues dragged kicking and screaming into the modern-day with crackling electricity amid its nod to life’s essentials. If the blues has traditionally been about getting through hard times, Benton County Relic offers the kind of deep baring of the soul that enables us to transcend oppression, whether in the 19th century or in the precarious present.

There’s blood on these 12 tracks, from the matter-of-fact recitation of his poverty-stricken childhood without running water, radio or TV in “We Made It” (“I come from nothin’/I done been lower than low/I keep my head straight/No matter how low I go”) and the description of a “Typical Day” (“I wake up in the mornin’/Sun shinin’ on my face/I drink a cup of coffee/I might roll me a J”) to the loss of family endured in “Hard to Stay Cool” and the unrequited passion of “There is So Much.”

“I write my music according to how I live my life, the things I’m going through at the time,” insists Burnside, who lost both his parents, an uncle and his younger brother Cody over the last few years. “I love music so much. It’s really something I can turn to when I’m feeling down and out, and in pain. Whether it’s the heartache of breaking up with a girlfriend, or frustration at a dispute with a family member.”

Burnside has brought a music that started as an expression of grief and a will to survive into a modern-day art form that is both timely and timeless, a glimpse of myth and insight into the human condition. “Back in the day, it wasn’t heard as music, but more like ‘somebody help me, I want to get out of this situation,’” says Cedric. “These days, anybody can have the blues. Some people deal with loss by going out and getting drunk or even killing themselves. The blues is about surviving through those hard times, telling the world what you’ve been through, and how you came out of it.”

Cedric’s blues cover a wide range of different emotions. “Give It to You” is an expression of pure sexual desire, a traditional blues trope. Burnside explains, “That kind of stuff still goes on in the world today,” he says. “It has happened to me, and I’m sure it has happened to a lot more people. Whether it’s politically correct or not, it’s the truth. And that’s how I write my music. It might seem harsh or messed-up, but it’s real.”

“Call on Me” is a song penned for his three daughters, ages 13 to 17, about being there emotionally, if not always in person, given his hectic touring schedule. “I just want them to know, what I do is not just for the fans, but for them, too.”

The traditional “Death Bell Blues” is a tribute to his own “Big Daddy,” R.L. Burnside, who used to perform the song, once covered by Muddy Waters and countless others. “I did it the same way ‘Big Daddy’ did it,” he says. “I want to let the people know where my music comes from.”

On “Ain’t Gonna Take No Mess,” Cedric insists he’s performing the music he wants, regardless of what anybody else says. “I’ve been playing almost 30 years now,” he exclaims. “It’s who I am, what I am. I am Hill country blues. This is my whole life, and I’m not going to listen to anyone who tells me what I can and can’t do. I just thank God that Single Lock Records let me be with my music.”

Cedric has both played and recorded with the North Mississippi Allstars (Luther Dickinson gave him his first electric guitar), Widespread Panic, Jimmy Buffett, Bobby Rush, Hubert Sumlin, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He was also featured playing drums alongside Samuel L. Jackson in Craig Brewer’s 2006 feature film, Black Snake Moan, which was in part a tribute to his grandfather R.L. and other iconic bluesmen.

Now planning to tour with collaborator Brian Jay to promote the new album, Cedric eschews politics in favor of the personal. “I know there’s a lot going on in the world,” he says. “But I try to give it all to God and let Him handle it. Politics divides people. The blues brings them together. A bluesman has to find a way to make it through.”

Cedric Burnside isn’t content with just making it through. On Benton County Relic, he brings the blues alive for a new generation of fans weaned on the likes of White Stripes and the Black Keys. And why not? That’s all he’s ever known.

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