Published on June 22nd, 2022 | by Nature Humphries


North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Artist Interview: Eric Deaton

Eric Deaton will play the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Saturday, June 25 at 4 pm.

What is your favorite thing about the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic? What makes it stand out compared to other music festivals?

The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic is the only blues festival focused on the Hill Country Blues scene in North Mississippi. My favorite thing about it is that it’s a like a big homecoming/family reunion for all of us who are part of this scene.

What does “Hill Country Blues” mean to you personally?

Hill Country Blues refers to the blues scene that grew up in the North Mississippi hills, east of the Delta. Hill Country Blues is different from Delta Blues in that it doesn’t usually follow the twelve bar, 1-4-5 patterns that dominate most blues traditions. There aren’t many shuffle beats. The music and rhythms are hypnotic sounding.

What drew you into Hill Country blues initially? What keeps it fresh for you now?

I first heard some Hill Country performers on the Alan Lomax PBS documentary, The Land Where the Blues Began, and I was floored by the sounds I heard. I never get tired of playing the songs that have become Hill Country Blues standards, like “Jumper On the Line.” It’s also an evolving tradition. In the hands of the younger Kimbroughs and Burnsides, Kenny Brown, Trenton Ayers, North Mississippi Allstars, myself, etc. the music is growing and expanding.

Eric Deaton at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic June 26, 2021. Photo by Jean Frank.

Describe your style—what can picnic attendees expect from your set this year? Who else is in your band?

My style is deeply rooted in the music of Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and all the younger Kimbroughs and Burnsides. I also incorporate influences from funk music I listen to, like Funkadelic and James Brown. There’s some influence from West African music as well. My time playing with Guelel Kumba had a big impact on me. In my band at the picnic: Kent Kimbrough will be on drums, Nate Robbins will be on bass, and Kody Harrell will switch out with Nate to play bass on several numbers.

How many picnics have you attended or performed? Would you share a favorite memory or two from picnics past?

I have played at every picnic since the very first one! One of my favorite things at the picnic each year was the mini-set that Joseph and Junior Burnside played together with Calvin Jackson on drums. None of the three of them were performing much anymore, so it was a highlight to get to see them play at the Picnic. None of the three of them are with us anymore, so those are treasured memories.

Do you have any upcoming projects or shows? How can fans learn more about you?

After the picnic this year, Kenny Brown and I will be hitting the road with the Black Keys from July to October on their US tour.

Those dates are posted on the Black Keys website. I also have, but I haven’t been doing much with it lately since I haven’t been gigging much with own band recently.

What are some artists/albums/etc. you’re listening to currently?

Lately I’ve been listening to The Meters, Hash Brown, Hound Dog Taylor, John Sinclair, and JJ Cale. Also recently finished watching Ken Burn’s Country Music documentary series.

North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Artist Interview: Garry Burnside

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About the Author

Nature Humphries is Editor-in-Chief of The Local Voice. Nature is originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, but moved to Oxford in 2004 after spending time in the United States Navy. She has also worked in the restaurant industry for many years as a server and a bartender. Nature graduated from Ole Miss in 2007 with a degree in English and Modern Languages.

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