Nashville Blues Society
In the early 1930's, the Chatmon brothers--Sam, Lonnie, and Armenter--along with Walter Vinson, formed the Mississippi Sheiks. They recorded some one hundred singles that would establish them as one of the most popular "string bands" of all time. They melded blues, roots, and folk music along with topical subjects of the day (mostly of a nation coming to terms with the Great Depression) to give them a flair for the unique. Incorporating fiddle and banjo along with traditional blues instruments, the Sheiks toured throughout the South, and even made inroads up north in places like Chicago and New York.
Black Hen Records has just released "Things About Comin' My Way," a seventeen-track overview of this great band as interpreted by some of today's best blues and Americana artists. Most of the players stay true to the confines of the original arrangements, while others take the music of the Sheiks to new dimensions.
The North Mississippi Allstars kick things off with "It's Backfirin' Now," effectively capturing what the Sheiks were all about. John Hammond checks in with a slide-heavy "Stop And Listen," while Bill Frisell uses guitar and a horn section to turn "That's It" into a ragtime instrumental. Madeleine Peyroux and Robin Holcomb lend the women's perspective to "Please Baby," and "I've Got Blood In My Eyes For You," perhaps the most unusual arrangement of a Sheiks' tune ever recorded.
We had three favorites, too. The Carolina Chocolate Drops give an authentic read on perhaps the Sheiks' best-known tune, "Sitting On Top Of The World." Bob Brozman's acoustic guitar skills shine on "Somebody's Gotta Help You." And, Vancouver-based gospel group The Sojourners give a fire-and-brimstone take on the more spiritual side of the Sheiks, with "He Calls That Religion, but I know he's goin' to Hell when he dies!!"
The Mississippi Sheiks left a brilliant legacy in a relatively short period of time. For those unfamiliar with their work, "Things About Comin' My Way" is an excellent introduction!