The sub-title of this seventeen-song tribute release is A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks. Named partly after the 1921 Rudo
lph Valentino movie The Sheiks, the group hailed from Bolton, Mississippi. Composed of Walter Vinson (guitar, vocals) and Lonnie Chatmon (fiddle) - from time to time, his brothers Sam (guitar) also performed with the Sheiks - this string band pioneered the country blues genre. They were inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2004, and two years ago Sittin' on top of the World, their 1930 'hit song' was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. For an aggregation that recorded around seventy songs, for three major labels, in a period of just five years, that is high praise.
According to his narrative in the liner booklet, Steve Dawson, who produced this album, is a self-confessed Sheiks' fan and this recording was conceived a couple of years ago while sat at his kit hen table listening to their recordings. Dawson raison d'etre for the project was to allow the contributing musicians the freedom to interpret the Sheiks songs rather than replicate their eighty-year old sound. In order to construct a compilation that was hung on a thread of continuity, having hired top flight players - pianist Wayne Horvitz, bassist Keith Lowe and drummer Matt Chamberlain - a to-day recording session took place in Seattle, helmed by Dawson, that yielded eight selections including his own contribution Lonely One in this Town. Dawson also helmed sessions at his Henhouse Studio in Vancouver, and in studios in other Canadian cities, such that there's only a handful of Things About Comin' My Way songs he wasn't directly involved in recording.
Circa the 1970s, Del Ray who performs We Both Are Feeling Good Right Now, was taught to play blues guitar by Sam Chatmon, thereby adding some historic authenticity to this compilation. Other contributors to this worth and well-executed project are the Carolina Chocolate Drops (Sittin' On Top of the World), Dannyt Barnes (the Bad Livers, the Barnburners), Madeleine Peyroux, Bruce Cockburn and the legendary John Hammond.