Spade Cooley

Sagebrush Swing

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This 20-song collection highlights some rare selections from Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage. A few of the probable sources for these tracks are the Armed Forces Radio Service programs Command Performance, Melody Roundup, or perhaps the stateside broadcast All-Star Western Theatre. In fact, the latter presented Willing and company on a fairly regular basis. An earlier incarnation was founded in the mid-'30s by Buck Page, who named the group after Zane Grey's 1912 western novel. Willing took advantage of their increasing personnel turnover, which was largely due to the demands of World War II. After Page's incarnation had ended, Willing formed his own version and it was ultimately those in this lineup of the Riders of the Purple Sage who became multimedia stars, making regular appearances on radio and in the cinema. This CD is an excellent compendium, capturing them at their peak and sporting some of their best-loved material. Among the more familiar tunes are "Ragtime Cowboy Joe," "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds," "Red River Valley," "Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie," and "You Are My Sunshine." Their unique up-tempo Western swing style features an airtight vocal harmony blend, such as that heard on "There's a Rainbow Over the Range," "Out on the Texas Plain," and most prominently when covering the Sons of the Pioneers' classic, "Timber Trail," which is marked by a striking a cappella introduction. The sound quality is excellent throughout and is equally impressive as so few vintage recordings exist circa the early- to mid-'40s.