Mississippi Sheiks

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1930-1931)

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Walter Vinson and the Chatman Brothers made their first records together in Shreveport, LA and San Antonio, TX in February and June 1930. Those performances, which were captured by an Okeh field recording unit, were reissued in the early '90s on Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 of Document's four-volume series which presented the group's complete works in chronological order. Volume 2 opens with their first "home turf" session, which took place at the King Edward Hotel in Jackson, MS on December 15, 1930, followed by five titles recorded four days later, and ten selections from a session that took place it Atlanta, GA on October 24, 1931. The Sheiks at this point consisted of singing guitarist Vinson, who engaged at times in gentle passages of Tommy Johnson-like blue yodeling, and fiddler Lonnie Chatman, whose bowing technique called up awesome tonalities that resonate today like textural premonitions of what Sugarcane Harris accomplished some 40 years after these records were made. The Sheiks' remake of "Sitting on Top of the World" is definitive, and "Things About Comin' My Way" uses the same melody with similar results. In the liner notes, blues historian Chris Smith plausibly suggests that the Sheiks handled requests for songs they didn't know by inventing similarly titled originals on the spot. "Honey Babe Let the Deal Go Down," he theorizes, resulted from a request for a tune by Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, while "Lazy Lazy River" could have been concocted as a sort of "anti-cover" of an air by Hoagy Carmichael. On this collection, Vinson sings about interpersonal relationships, loneliness, depression, body odor, alienation, poverty, and death. Interestingly, the producers of this series did not include six additional titles (four of them waltzes) which were recorded on December 15, 1930 but issued under the name of the Mississippi Mud Steppers. Document has reissued these recordings on Mississippi String Bands and Associates 1928-1931 and threw a few in with Charlie McCoy's recordings from 1928-1932.

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