Most music fans who are true music fans (knowledgeable enough to visit this sight…;) have an interest in not only the music, but in the development and history of the music they like. To those of you I have something you’ll want to check out, especially if you are into acoustic blues.
One of the most popular acts in the country in the 1930’s was the Mississippi Sheiks. Muddy Waters apparently commented that he would walk 10 miles to see the Sheiks. Well, fortunately if you are a fan of their music or would like to check it out, you don’t have to walk 10 miles, you just have to check out a new DVD called The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Concert. The new dvd is a companion dvd to a cd released last year called Things About Comin’ My Way-A Tribute To The Music Of The Mississippi Sheiks.
Both projects are the brainchild of Steve Dawson. This dvd was filmed during two performances in March of this year at the Capilano Performing Arts Theatre at Capilano University in Vancouver. The ‘house band’ consisted of mainly Seattle musicians, including Matt Chamberlain- drums and percussion; Steve Dawson- guitars, pedal steel, banjo; Wayne Horvitz- organ, piano, Wurlitzer, Daniel Lapp- fiddle, trumpet, mandolin and tuba; and Keith Lowe- bass.
Below is copy of the press release for the actual concerts in March posted on the Vancouver2010.com website at the time.
The Mississippi Sheiks, a country and blues string band, has been called the Radiohead of its era, recording over 60 hugely influential songs between 1930 and 1935. Walter Vinson and Sam Chatmon formed the core of the band, with Sam’s two brothers, Lonnie and Armenter “Bo Carter” Chatmon, dropping in when they were in town. The group had a blockbuster hit with Sittin’ On Top of the World, which has since been covered by Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Cream and dozens of others.
The Sheiks practically invented the string band concept in blues and roots music, but when the group disbanded, the Chatmon brothers returned to farming. Bo Carter, for one, died blind and destitute in 1964.
Musician and producer Steve Dawson is leading the charge to reintroduce the Mississippi Sheiks to contemporary audiences. In 2009, the Juno Award-winning producer released Things About Comin’ My Way, a tribute album with recordings by 17 world-renowned artists, many of whom will play live at this world premiere.
Other guest performers that travelled to Vancouver for the shows included Oh Susanna, John Hammond, Jim Byrnes, The Sojourners, Geoff Muldaur, Danny Barnes, Van Dyke Parks, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Bob Brozman, Dave Alvin and Colin James.
While country blues may make you think slow, mournful music sung by an old guy with only 5 strings on his guitar you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a wonderfully uplifting and feel good show full of great music and stellar performances. How the group was able to establish this level of cohesion and chemistry ofter minimal rehearsal and only TWO shows is a tribute to the work Steve Dawson did as organizer and producer and to the musicianship of all the performers. You get a sense watching this disc that these folks have been performing these tunes together for a long time. Yes, I know blues is not the most technical musical style to play, which in some ways makes the magic they deliver even more impressive!
After some initial insight into the project by Steve Dawson and others involved with the project, the show starts with Jim Byrnes reading from some liner noter that Sam Chatmon wrote for a 1970s disc which detailed growing up in his family in the 1920s and 1930s in Mississippi. These are read over a soft strings only rendition of Sittin On Top Of The World. All of the songs were written by Walter Vinson and/or Sam Chatmon but are all credited to “Public Domain” as ther is no written credit information. Some of the highlights for me in the show include Oh Susana singing Things About Comin’ My Way, It’s Backfirin’ Now featuring Van Dyke Parks on vocals and piano, and Who’s Been Here featuring Dave Alvin and Christy McWilson. The show ends with the stage stuffed with all the performers doing a rousing rendition of Sittin On Top Of The World. Rarely will you see a group of performers on stage enjoying themselves more that they do on this tune.
No matter what kind of music you like, I’m sure you’ll love this live show dvd. If you don’t, well I feel sorry for you!