FEATURED ARTIST / S
Includes; Walter Vincson, vocal, guitar; Lonnie Chatman, vocal, violin; Bo Carter, vocal, guitar, violin.
Genres: String band, Country Blues, Mississippi blues.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
From this album's booklet notes:
It wasn't until February 1930 that the Mississippi Sheiks encountered Okeh's field recording unit in Shreveport, Louisiana, some distance from their base in the Jackson, Mississippi area. Their name was made up at the recording session at the request of producer Polk Brockman, and was apparently inspired by the pop hit 'Sheik of Araby', although the word was common in black speech, thanks to Rudolph Valentino.
At their first session, the Sheiks recorded their two biggest hits. Sitting On Top Of The World, with its mournful delivery in ironic contrast to the jaunty words, was a perfect song for the coming Depression, and attracted a host of cover versions. Stop And Listen Blues was musically based on Tommy Johnson's 'Big Road Blues', and gave Walter Vinson a chance to display his considerable guitar prowess, playing with unrestrained force. The lyrics, recounting a girlfriend's funeral, are equally impressive, and this song, too, was widely covered.
There was more to the Sheiks than blues, though; they were accustomed to playing for white dances, and The Sheik Waltz and The Jazz Fiddler reflect this side of their work, and were issued in Okeh's old-time series, while Lonely One In This Town is more pop than blues. The waltz, which includes Charles K. Harris's 'After The Ball' among its strains, is also a showcase for Lonnie's technique. Driving That Thing was the first of the many sexual metaphors they employed when playing a rural version of the hokum popularized by Tampa Red and others. Alberta Blues was a version of 'Corrine Corrina', which Bo Chatmon had recorded in 1928 which became a standard, recorded by blacks, hillbillies, folk revivalists and pop singers.
At their next session, spread over four days in San Antonio, the Sheiks were equally eclectic, ranging from the tough and very black West Jackson Blues to the sentimental, white-influenced Jail Bird Love Song. This may be one of the sessions on which Sam Chatmon appears; compare the singing on Grinding Old Fool to that on the earlier 'Driving That Thing'. Jake Leg Blues and Bootlegger's Blues were alcohol-related topical commentary, the first blaming the "jake leg" epidemic caused by adulterated Jamaica Ginger on Prohibition, the second adapted from 'To The Pines'. Topical in a different way were Yodeling Fiddling Blues and Loose Like That, respectively indebted to Jimmy Rodgers and Tampa Red. (Tampa's 'Chicago Moan' also inspired River Bottom Blues.) Stars themselves by now, as all-round entertainers the Mississippi Sheiks weren't above covering the work of two of the most popular musicians in the country.