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In the liner notes to Pearl Street Garage #1 , actress and singer Mews Small gives special thanks to her "Grandma Lily for saving her old sheet music in her garage of treasures." Thanks to Grandma Lily, Small and the Small Band revive a treasure trove of songs from times long gone by. Most of the songs date from the 1920s, with two traditional songs and a Russian folk song dating from the 19th century, and one song, Charles Harris' "Hello Central, Give Me Heaven," dating from 1901. The only exception to the pre 1930 repertoire is a strongly gospel-tinged rendition of Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson's "Comin' In On a Wing and A Prayer," which dates from 1943.
Mews' style of singing is varied. For example, on "You've Got to See Mama Every Night" she sounds like a 1920s era red-hot mama. In sharp contrast, Mews sounds much like a straight-laced temperance crusader at a revival meeting on "Hello Central, Give Me Heaven" and the traditional "Abide With Me." A certain Eastern European exoticism is present in the Russian folk song "Dark Eyes," bringing to mind a sound that might have been found in an early 20th century European cabaret. As far as Mews' voice and style of singing, it is very much reminiscent of what might be heard on 78 rpm recordings dating from the 1920s. About the only thing missing that might contribute to the aesthetic of these older songs are the pops and crackles of an old record and the tinny lo-fi sound of a wind-up Victrola.
With an increasing interest in "roots music" of the American popular experience, Mews Small and the Small Band will very likely find a very receptive audience among those who love to mine the ore of songs perhaps lost in the attic of our collective memory. While Small's voice and singing style harken to the past, her performances and those of the Small band are not necessarily trying to function as a repertory ensemble. To this listener, there are too many inconsistencies in the style and sound of the backup band that would make such a claim credible.
This does not make the performances on Pearl Street Garage #1 any less credible. Mews Small and the Small Band are merely drawing upon particular repertory (and in some cases a little known or forgotten repertory) and performing modern arrangements (penned by nephew Phil Small) of these songs. In drawing from this repertory, they are updating these songs and providing a valuable asset for preserving the past. For fans of early 20th century American popular music or individuals discovering music of the "jazz age" for the first time, Pearl Street Garage #1 will be most welcome.
Track Listing: You've Got To See Mama Every Night, My Buddy, Yes Sir That's My Baby, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, I'll See You In My Dreams, Comin' In On A Wing And A Prayer, Hello Central Give Me Heaven, Dark Eyes, Abide With Me
Personnel: Mews Small (vocals), Phil Small (piano, backup vocals), Curtis Robinson Jr. (bass), Raymond Pitts (drums,clarinet), Jim Coffman (trombone, mandolin, violin, guitar), Laura Kass (violin), Mitta Wise (backup vocals), Steve Goodie (guitar)