The Sons of the Pioneers appeared in dozens of movies, and provided music for still more films than that, but those were all low-budget B-westerns. John Ford's Rio Grande was the only big-budget film in which they not only provided music but appeared on camera. Victor Young wrote the main body of the score, an alternately sentimental and rousing body of music, built around richly tonal themes and dark sonorities, reminiscent of Max Steiner's work, and that music does its job of underscoring the broader action of the film very well, marred only where Young almost pushes the sentimental side a little too hard, or roots his music depicting the Indians in some obvious Hollywood movie score cliches; even the cue "Laundresses Row" has some interesting embellishments over its traditional Irish source material. The distinguishing feature here, however, is the mix of traditional songs ("I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," "Down by the Glen Side," "Erie Canal," etc.), numbers by Tex Owens ("Cattle Call"), Dale Evans ("Aha, San Antone"), and originals by Stan Jones, all of it sung by the Pioneers. This is some of the better work of the period for the group, if only because, as onscreen music, much of it is devoid of the over-produced, over-orchestrated sound that marred many of the group's post-war recordings for RCA Victor -- it's just them, with maybe a guitar accompaniment. The quality of their singing on the Stan Jones material, and the quality of Jones' songwriting ("Yellow Stripes," "My Gal Is Purple," "Footsore Cavalry," etc.) makes one especially sorry that the Pioneers never did an album of Stan Jones songs. The quality of the reissue is excellent, the tracks sounding far cleaner and crisper than their nearly 50-year-old origins would lead one to expect. The notes, by actor Harry Carey Jr., are very thorough -- he can take credit for getting Stan Jones involved in the production -- though they spend more time talking about onscreen action than the music itself.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder