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Sitting On Top of The World, Grinding Old Fool, Still I'm Travelling On, Got Blood In My Eyes For You, It's Done Got Wet, Jailbird Love Song, The World Is Going Wrong, The Sheik Waltz, Baby Keeps Stealin' Lovin' On Me, What's The Name Of That Thing, I'll Be Gone Long Gone, Sales Tax, Stop And Listen Blues, Lonely One In This Town, Jake Leg Blues, The Jazz Fiddler, Lazy Lazy River, Somebody's Got To Help You, Sweet Maggie, Tell Me What The Cats Fight About.

In the thirties the Mississippi Sheiks were probably the hottest string band in Mississippi, their varied repertoire of parlour songs, hokum, pop tunes of the day, two-steps and tough blues went down a storm wherever they played - whether it was the country juke joints or white folks houses. They preferred to play for whites who paid more, but the Sheiks were adored by their own folks, especially musicians like Muddy Waters who said that in his youth he'd "walk ten miles just to see them play. They was high time whenever they came through there making them good records".

For the most part, there were just the two of ‘em but what a great sound they made. Walter Vinson played guitar and took the lead vocals while Lonnie Chatmon simply soared on the fiddle.  Lonnie provided the beautifully imaginative bluesy violin that became their trademark and Vinson's guitar alternated a boom-chang frailing lick with a more accomplished finger picking style as he crooned out some of the most memorable melodies in the blues.

Their songs were cherished by their contemporaries and beyond - The Alabama Sheiks and The Light Crust Doughboys recorded "Sitting on Top of The World" as did later later musicians as diverse as Frank Crumit, Howlin' Wolf and Carl Perkins, and Bob Dylan recorded both "The World Is Going Wrong" and "Blood In My Eyes For You" in 1993.

Although this album has a strong blues base including songs like "Stop And Listen Blues" (which Tommy Johnson re-modelled as "Big Road Blues") and the vocal duet "Grindin' Old Fool", there's a hint of the wide range of style covered by the Sheiks. "Lazy Lazy River" could just as easily have been covered by Jimmie Rodgers, "The Jazz Fiddler" has elements of old-timey string-band music and "Tell Me What The Cats Fight About" is a slice of sheer swing.

I know hardcore Sheik-freaks will have many of the tracks included here but bear in mind that half of the twenty tracks don't appear on the Yazoo or Columbia collections. At this low price it's worth checking out and you'll be pleased to hear the sound is fabulous.


Review Date: November 2008

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