Sons of the San Joaquin

A Cowboy's Song

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The Sons of the San Joaquin's 2011 album A Cowboy's Song is not to be confused with their earlier album A Cowboy Has to Sing, but the relatively generic title is a good indication that this is another collection in the trio's ongoing musical tribute to the myth of the cowboy. That it is a myth sometimes indicates to listeners that the group has its collective tongue in its cheek to a certain extent, especially given that it represents a continuation of the tradition of the Hollywood cowboy, particularly the Sons of the Pioneers (who sang one of this disc's songs, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," as did another of the current group's ancestors, Gene Autry). But from the evidence of their records alone, these Sons aren't really kidding, and their idealized portrait of Western life is no less sincere than, say, popular music's frequent idealization of true love (something that, as it happens, also figures in the songs on this album, here and there). For the Sons, the world of cowboys riding the range, herding cattle, and living a life that is rugged and free, is no less real for being a '40s fantasy version of a life dating back to the 1880s, now being described in the second decade of the 21st century. And at least once, they let the mask slip a little and reveal the contemporary implications of their stance. That occurs in "Timberline Camp," when the singers, waxing religious, ask, "If the heavens declare the glory of God, then who needs evolution?" Later comes the lyric: "I'm cowpoke just rolling a smoke/Far away from civilization." If these cowboys ambled into town for an election, it seems, they'd vote the straight Republican ticket. But for the most part, all is sweetness and light on this Sons of the San Joaquin album, just as it is on their other ones, as the three singers take alternate leads and sing harmonies over fiddle-filled arrangements extolling the wonders of outdoor Western life.

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