Various Artists

OKeh Western Swing

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The beginnings and evolution of Western swing are explored in colorful fashion on this definitive two-LP set. The 28 selections (programmed loosely in chronological order) start out with a couple of country-oriented singers performing in jazz settings (Al Bernard and Emmett Miller during 1927-28) before moving to the mid-'30s and performances by Roy Newman, the Blue Ridge Playboys, the Range Riders, W. Lee O'Daniel & His Hillbilly Boys and the Crystal Springs Ramblers. Seven selections from Bob Wills' Texas Playboys (dating from 1935-41) are followed by numbers from the Saddle Tramps, the Sons of the Pioneers, the Light Crust Doughboys, the Hi Neighbor Boys, Hank Penny, the Swift Jewel Cowboys and the Sweet Violet Boys. Side Four covers 1941-42 with cuts by Ocie Stockard's Wanderers, the Hi-Flyers, Sons of the West, Adolf Hofner and Slim Harbert before concluding with a 1946 performance by Spade Cooley and an obscurity from Leon McAuliffe in 1950. This two-fer serves as a perfect introduction to listeners (from both the country and jazz worlds) who are not that familiar with the joyous country/jazz fusion from the Depression years known as Western swing. Recommended.

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