THE MISSISSIPPI SHEIKS TRIBUTE CONCERT Live in Vancouver (Black Hen Music) **** Stars
What? You’ve never heard of the Mississippi Sheiks? Well, you’re not alone, but considering this collective of musicians from the Mississippi Delta was one of the top-selling country blues acts of the 1930s and that they influenced such better-known blues icons like Charley Patton, Big Bill Broonzy, and Robert Johnson, it’s a wonder that the group has never truly received their due. It’s a historical omission that Black Hen Music head Steve Dawson has set out to correct, first with his 2009 tribute album, Things About Comin’ My Way, and now with this tribute concert DVD.
To recreate the Sheiks’ music, Steve Dawson set up a “house band” featuring himself on guitar, along with Matt Chamberlain on drums, Wayne Horvitz on organ, Daniel Lapp on fiddle and brass, and Keith Lowe on bass. He then brought in an all-star lineup of blues and roots musicians including John Hammond, Geoff Muldaur, Dave Alvin, Bob Brozman, and Alvin Youngblood Hart, to lead each of the 14 tunes, with a full ensemble jam of the band’s best-known song “Sitting on Top of the World” (famously covered by both Howlin’ Wolf and Cream) to close out the show. In addition to the performance itself, Dawson provides historical background on the Sheiks, along with interviews with several of the guest performances, backstage and rehearsal footage.
If you’re a fan of country blues and traditional Americana roots music and you don’t know the Sheiks, you’ve got to check this out. – Mike Mueller