Country Music Hall Of Famer Little Jimmy Dickens, just shy of five feet tall, is proof positive that good things do indeed come in small packages. Germany's Bear Family Records, renown for its comprehensive, meticulously researched box sets, with this - the first of two sets - begins its documentation of Dickens' career in a superb none-too-small collection of 105 songs spanning four CDs from 1949-57 on Columbia.
Known for novelty songs such as "Out Behind The Barn" and "A-Sleepin' At The Foot Of The Bed," Dickens nonetheless recorded numerous solid, potent ballads, many included here. His mournful take on 1949's "Pennies For Papa," for example, properly skirts the line between the maudlin and the genuinely sad, providing the listener a somewhat more indelible peek at Dickens's talent. Listen in as Dickens' voice shimmers while emphatically singing "My Heart's Bouquet" or the still relevant "Sign By The Highway," and it would be hard to deny Dickens' aptitude or to simply pigeonhole him as a singer of comedic songs.
When it comes to executing comedic songs, Dickens is the master. Whether it be the hilarious "Walk, Chicken, Walk" "Country Boy" or "Hillbilly Fever," they were more than customary rib-tickers in that most were steeped in truth that most with a rural background could readily identify. A total of 20 previously unreleased songs, including gems "On The Sea Of Broken Dreams" and "Would You Mind," highlight the collection. Long out of print religious tunes, like the solemn "No Tears In Heaven" further the notion that Dickens' talent was far from one dimensional.
An added bonus is the fact-rich 63-page booklet, featuring WSM's Eddie Stubbs' excellent biography and discography, complete with recording dates and personnel.