Music

Various Artists: Things About Comin' My Way: A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks

While a few tracks on Things About Comin' My Way breeze by more than they burn, there's some outstanding playing and a few gems scattered throughout its expansive 17-track presentation.


Various Artists

Things About Comin' My Way: A Tribute to the Music of The Mississippi Sheiks

Label: Black Hen
US Release Date: 2009-10-20
UK Release Date: 2009-10-19
Amazon
iTunes

First things first – the music compiled on this disc is back porch, summertime music, contrary to its fall release date. That's not to say that it can only be enjoyed while sweating, but the vibe here isn't suited to shivering. These may be recreations of classic 1930s Mississippi blues songs – music created in darker times – but the sunny production turns this collection into a feelgood jam. Things About Comin' My Way: A Tribute to the Music of The Mississippi Sheiks contains a few gems scattered throughout its expansive 17-track presentation.

The music of The Mississippi Sheiks, a group that only lasted five years but left an immense body of work, has been given treatment by countless artists spanning multiple generations. Perhaps their most recognizable tune, "Sittin' on Top of the World" has been covered by Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, the Grateful Dead, Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, Big Bill Broonzy, Carl Perkins, Doc Watson, Van Morrison, and, even more recently, Jack White. Muddy Waters himself, who recorded some of the dirtiest blues ever laid to tape, claimed to have walked 10 miles to see them play: "they was high-time…makin' them good records, man".

The sons of slaves, the Chatmon Brothers, along with Walter Vinson, were notorious for their music that revved up audiences in venues all across the country. According to the well-written and thorough liner notes, the Mississippi Sheiks' songs "took a suffering generation on a ride through a universe populated with characters that walked the razor's edge between sin and redemption, grace and depravity". With tales of their fiery vocals and gutbucket guitar leaving audiences in a frenzy in Mississippi juke houses, one can only imagine what the Sheiks' gigs must have been like.

While few tracks on Things About Comin' My Way breeze by more than they burn, and three slow numbers placed in the middle of the disc make a break in the pace that's slightly jarring, there's some outstanding playing on this disc that balances well with less remarkable material. The opening guitar lick on the title track lifts the melody to "Sittin' On Top of the World", as does the tune itself, sung by Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Ndidi Onukwulu, with strong but fluttery vocals.The Carolina Chocolate Drops' guitar-n-fiddle-n-banjo take on "Sittin'" itself eases along as joyfully as a good porch swing.

Danny Barnes' twangy drawl meshes well with Jeanne Tolmie's harmony vocals on "Too Long". His country-jazz scat singing, played in unison with his banjo licks, is a pure joy. Kelly Joe Phelps' unusual, slightly dissonant chording and fluid fretwork on the national guitar is haunting on "Livin' In a Strain", providing a nice follow-up to Madeleine Peyroux's lazy shuffle through "Please Baby". Producer Steve Dawson's slide guitar work on "Lonely One in This Town" is quite tasty, as is the Hammond organ work by Wayne Horvitz.

The use of a session band on several tracks, while making for a consistent sound to back up the vocalists, sounds just like what it is: a session band with a singer, lacking the well-seasoned group interplay and musical dialogue that can only be gained through hours of rehearsals and gigs together. It's not a total miss – the best blues often comes from spontaneous moments – but some of Things About Comin' My Way feels too polished, too planned, and not raw enough.

Doug Heselgrave's essay in the liner notes states, "there aren't many CDs like this one being recorded today. Life is short, and like the song says you may only be 'sitting on top of the world' for a moment". This is true. More people do need to discover and re-discover this music. Things About Comin' My Way is a fine place to start, but there's so much more to it than this.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.