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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Album Project

We bloggers always say we are passionate about music. We talk about how much we love a new random band whose CD has shown up in our mailbox and with enthusiastic hyperbole, we try to bring attention to the songs (and our blog).

But in reality, the passion comes from the people writing the songs that inspire their peers and listeners. That passion sky rockets when you get to hear a musician talk about an artist that helped define a sound, and in the case of Vancouver guitar wizard (and his lovely wife) Steve Dawson, that inspiration has led to a project I hope everyone gets behind.

The Mississippi Sheiks were one of the first crossover blues bands from the 1930s. While this might not sound like a big deal, in the 30's black musicians sold records to black people, and white musicians sold to a white audience. The Sheiks changed that. With the help of a country blues style, amazing fiddle work and a prolific writing style, the Sheiks dominated the 30's and started influencing musicians.

Steve and his wife decided to try to raise the money to create a tribute record for the Sheiks while enjoying a vacation in Hawaii, and the idea blossomed quickly. Emails were sent, air miles spent and with enough support this project will be finished and released on Black Hen Music sometime in early '09. The Dawsons have enlisted the support of a stable of talented musicians who just want to show the world how the Sheiks influenced music. Whether it's Dylan covering Sitting on Top of the World or Muddy Waters telling people he'd walk ten miles just to hear the Sheik's play, the talent of this band is undeniable. So far the Dawson's have recruited Ry Cooder & the Carolina Chocolate Drops (who are playing the Sheiks in the upcoming Denzel Washington flick, The Great Debater), John Hammond, Canadian blues legend Jim Byrnes, Vancouver gospel vets The Sojourners, Kelly Joe Phelps, Geoff Muldaur, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, Wayne Horovitz and Robin Holcomb, Bob Brozman, and Deep Dark Woods.

So here's the deal. Steve and his wife are trying to fund this record out of pocket. Because the songs aren't Canadian, it's impossible to get a recording grant. While a lot of the artists are helping out for low costs or for free, the process still costs money. Steve is setting this up to be a more dynamic recording, with a house band here in Vancouver instead of trying to just get people to mail in tracks. They figure they need about 12 grand, and are looking for a few donations (be it air miles or cash) and we are trying to do our small part to help.

We don't really ever ask for donations on the Hill, probably because this is just a hobby for us. Sure we have some ads, but we don't plug bands we don't like or ask you guys to pay our server fees, but this is something we really want to help with. So think about every time you'd ever downloaded a song from our site. Then think about every time you've downloaded a track from ANY blog, grabbed a leaked record on a torrent site or got free tickets from a blog. Then try to put a value on that. Is it $1? $5? Or maybe something more substantial? The thing is, this record IS important. Getting it heard is something that lots of people want to happen, and for the cost of a cup of coffee, you can help this project get finished.

If you are interested, click on the paypal link and donate. We are going to try to raise 500 dollars here on herohill. It's not much, but if we can do it, there's a good chance other people trying the same things can do it too and that will mean that the record will get made.

*** Please click here to Donate ***

We are going to be running some contests and promotions to help the Dawson's raise the cash. The first event, a beautiful house party held last Friday was a brief introduction to the project and showed Jim Byrnes, Steve, and The Sojouners playing a few Sheiks tracks unplugged. Nicola took a lot of photos, but in all honesty the real music came when we all got to hear the musicians talks about the Sheiks and realizing how influential they were in shaping these artist's careers. Dawson has been adding Sheik's songs to his shows for years, and often getting any artist he records to do likewise. Byrnes talked with vigor about how he and Muddy talked about the band. For some of the people in attendance, the Sheiks were a new sound, but after the quick set everyone's energy jumped.

So, for any of you who haven't heard of The Mississippi Sheiks, here's a couple of their classic tracks - along with a few live tracks by The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Posted at 10:09 AM by ack :: 3 comments

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At 5:25 PM, Blogger The DoorKeeper did sayeth:

any news on this project?


At 6:38 PM, Blogger ack did sayeth:

Sure is!


It's a fantastic record and so worth picking up!


At 7:04 PM, Blogger The DoorKeeper did sayeth:

thanks I just found a discussion where I mentioned it, and got to wondering. I'm so glad it came together.



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