Sippie Wallace – Complete Recorded Works 1923 – 1945 Vol 1 (1923-1925)
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Informative booklet notes by Mike Rowe. Detailed discography. “The Texas Nightingale”, Sippie Wallace made her first record in 1923 and her last in 1984.Her elder brother George Jr. was a musician who played piano and trumpet and is credited as an early creator of boogie-woogie. Ralph Peer of OKeh called on George one day looking for new material after George’s big success with “New Orleans Hop Scop Blues” and especially “Muscle Shoals Blues”. Sippie was in the back room and almost as an afterthought George asked her to sing the songs; Peer was impressed enough to organise a recording session. “Up The Country” and “Shorty George” was an immediate success and nearly twenty-five years old Sippie was on her way. Oddly there wasn’t a follow-up session for six months but then over a couple of weeks in New York at the end of May she made eight sides and another eight at the end of November, 1924.
To fulfil the demands of the OKeh contract professional songwriters provided more material and Sippie worked on her own songs. A common thread does run through her own songs, conversations and interviews — that of trouble with her men. “Devil Dance” was a song for example that affected her deeply some fifty years after the recording. An examination of her lyrics shows how the “Classic Blues” singers provided the raw material for those that followed; “I’m so glad I’m brown-skin, chocolate to the bone”, “Elgin Movements”, “Mighty rumbling down in the ground”, “Stranger here, just stopped in your town” and “Been down so long being down don’t worry me” are all striking phrases adopted by later singers.As she developed as a singer the high, sweet contralto would deepen into a particularly strong and expressive Blues voice. Baby I Can’t Use You No More (co-written by her husband Matt) is a fine example which, along with Being Down Don’t Worry Me” (with Hersal’s beautiful rolling accompaniment) makes Sippie’s assertion that she was a ballad singer not a blues singer worthy of a raised eyebrow or two! She really meant that she could and did sing every type of song as is borne out by her repertoire. A further recommendation, if one was needed, comes in the quality of her accompanists, which include Clarence Williams, King Oliver and Sidney Bechet along with and her brother Hersal. Most of all there is Louis Armstrong. His cornet countermelodies stand out for their ingenuity and empathy; where others indulged their egos with gaudy technique, Armstrong’s musical intelligence works to create a satisfying whole out of each performance. He is present on ten tracks of Volume Two which also includes “Bedroom Blues” and “Buzz Me”, recorded for Mercury in September 1945, with Albert Ammons and Lonnie Johnson present. By the time of her death in 1986, Sippie Wallace had enjoyed a late-flowering third career as the doyenne of blues singers, held in the highest regard by artist and audience alike. The reason for that reputation is contained in the two splendid volumes of her early recordings (Document DOCD-5399 and DOC-5400).