The ubiquitous "tribute project" has become something of pest in the world of CD releases. For the most part, they consist of mildly interesting (at best) versions of an artists' canon of songs and usually have more to do with promoting the participating bands.
However, this tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks, the long revered string band that was a top-seller in the 1920s, is different on a few counts. Not only is the lineup interesting -- from the North Mississippi Allstars and Bruce Cockburn to Danny Barnes and Bill Frisell (a trombone/guitar version of "That's It") -- but the arrangements are well-conceived and creative.
Backed by Seattle all-stars Wayne Horvitz, Keith Lowe and Matt Chamberlain, Vancouver singer Ndidi Onukwulu takes on the title track, a first cousin to the Sheiks' biggest hit "Sitting on Top of the World." With the same backing, Cockburn covers "Honey Babe Let the Deal Go Down" and Oh Susanna's Suzie Ungerleider sings "Bootlegger Blues" (with a string arrangement courtesy of Van Dyke Parks). Other standouts include Madeleine Peyroux's "Please Baby," the Sojourners "He Calls That Religion" and producer/guitarist Steve Dawson's "Lonely One in This Town."