Roots blues duo to play at Steamboat’s Old Town Pub tonight |

Roots blues duo to play at Steamboat’s Old Town Pub tonight

Nicole Inglis

Cedric Burnside, left, and Steve “Lighnin’” Malcolm play at 9:30 p.m. today at Old Town Pub. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Steamboat Springs — Steve “Lightnin’” Malcolm might be one of the last of his kind. — Steve "Lightnin'" Malcolm might be one of the last of his kind.

— Steve "Lightnin'" Malcolm might be one of the last of his kind.

In 1990, a 15-year-old boy from rural Missouri left home with his guitar on his back, hitchhiking his way across the South, playing a little roots blues here and there for a hearty meal and some good company.

Few young musicians understand the old ways of the blues man, he said: the grimy clubs, the moonshine-fueled all-nighters, the buckets of soul food and laughter.

But then again, few felt how Malcolm did when he first heard the Mississippi blues.

"I love that music from the first time I heard it," he said in the husky Southern drawl that his record company executives in Hollywood can't understand. "It's so powerful and spiritual and real. There's no music like that. I love all music, but there's no music like that. That's the boss right there."

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Now, touring as half of the blues duo Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, who have played stages at Telluride Blues and Brews Festival and beyond, Malcolm will play with his drummer partner tonight at Old Town Pub.

Tickets are $5 at the door, and general manager Kurt Vord­­emeier said the band would be set up in the bar area to "keep it intimate."

Vordemeier, a blues fan himself, said he saw Burnside — the grandson of blues great R.L. Burnside — play with another band.

"He was just unbelievable," Vordemeier said. "He's amazing. It's real blues. Real blues from Mississippi."

It was through the late R.L. that Malcolm hooked up with Burnside four years ago. Malcolm said he had seen the slight, young drummer play as a teenager in the mid-1990s and knew the man was going to be something special.

"I knew that the first time I met him," he said. "He's just good, you know. He's tight. It's everything I like.

"All the music I write, the drums is almost more important on the guitar. Drums make or break a band. It makes whatever the other guys do great."

After releasing their debut album "Juke Joint Duo" in 2007, the two have found themselves faced with filling larger and larger spaces with only two instruments. But don't tell a Southern blues man he needs a bassist or another guitarist.

"It's a whole different way of doing things," Malcolm said. "We're just used to making the most out of whatever we got."

It wasn't that long ago Malcolm was trying to fill entire houses with only his guitar, when he played the occasional party for $30.

"It wasn't so much the money as the jukebox just sound so good," he said. "And you have to make one guitar equal all that? You got to get it on the first song.

"But once you've won them over, the women get drinkin' their liquor and they get to dancin' up on you … when that happens, you feel real good. You get to playin' that guitar real good."

It was at those parties when he realized what the hill country blues were all about. The dancing girls weren't looking for technical solos. They just wanted to feel alive, to forget all about whatever it was they had come there to forget about.

"That music, you lean on that," Malcolm said. "I should be worried out my mind about how messed up things are. It's the music. It's spiritual. You don't worry too much about stuff because you livin'."

He said there's no way to verbally explain his upbringing or how he ended up on the stage beside Burnside. He'll leave it up to the music to explain itself, because, "the guitar do all the talkin'."

"We come to rock them out," Malcolm said about tonight's show. "It's good to us to be good to y'all."

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