Tiny Parham

Complete Recorded Works (1926-1928)

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Tiny Parham's primary recordings have been reissued by several labels, first on Swaggie, followed by two volumes of master takes from 1926-1940 on Classics, and a supplementary stash of rarer treats from 1928-1930 on Neatwork, the label that always digs a little deeper. Leave it to Document to dredge up the least-known recordings Parham is believed to have made, together with some on which his presence has never been entirely verified. Released in 1995 and again ten years later, Document's Tiny Parham & the Blues Singers combines 20 titles on which he accompanies eight different vocalists, three classic instrumental duets with clarinetist Johnny Dodds, and a little-known stomp by King Brady's Clarinet Band. The first singer had a name that was spelled differently each time she recorded. Tracks one through four are credited to Ardell "Shelly" Bragg (with guitarist Dad Nelson on "Canebreak Blues") and tracks five and six to Ardella Bragg & Her Texas Blues Blowers, with clarinetist Vance Dixon blowing alto sax on "What Makes You Treat Me This A-Way," which sounds like W.C. Handy's "Loveless Love" with different lyrics. "Wolf Man" and "Doggin' Me" are Tiny Parham/Ardelle Bragg duets. The only drawback is the sound quality on the first eight selections, which is at its worst on Paramount 12398: "Pig Meat Blues" and "Canebreak Blues." Not scratchiness -- all of the Bragg sides are scratchy -- but on these first two titles there is a periodic gross distortion of the piano tones. Here Document's laid-back attitude toward sound quality permitted a badly flawed recording to sully Bragg's chances of being heard and appreciated for posterity.

Ora Brown and Sharlie English were both expressive blueswomen; probably the most memorable recording either of them left to posterity is Sharlie's "Tuba Lawdy Blues," which has a nice bass clef brass accompaniment by one Bert Cobb. At the beginning of Bertha Henderson's "So Sorry Blues" there is a rare instance of Tiny Parham's speaking voice: it's one of the few recorded examples in existence. Like Henderson and even more so, Hattie McDaniels was a commanding presence, largely because she was a professional actress. Her two Okeh recordings stand as the strongest vocal tracks in the entire collection. As for Daniel Brown and W. Lawrence James, they sang folksy melodies ("River Rousty Song," "Oh Cap'n," and the gospel tune "Now Is the Needy Time"), possibly dating back to the late 19th century and resonating with an old-timey element that contrasts nicely (some may say oddly) with the authentic blues performances. The inclusion of three duets with clarinetist Johnny Dodds is a welcome treat, for "Oh Daddy," "Loveless Love," and "19th Street Blues" find both men performing at their very best. The rarest and most exciting track of all is "Toledano Street Blues" (named for a New Orleans thoroughfare running from Tchoupitoulas to Broad Street), recorded for the Black Patti record label in July 1927 by Brady's Clarinet Band. Directed by King Brady, this little unit featured clarinetist Ernest "Mike" Michall, an unidentified alto saxophonist, violinist Leroy Pickett, and either Johnny St.Cyr or Ikey Robinson on banjo. This collection is well worth investigating on its own or as a fully loaded appendix to the recorded works of Tiny Parham & His Musicians, Tiny Parham's "Forty" Five, and the Pickett-Parham Apollo Syncopators.

blue highlight denotes track pick