Various Artists

Singing Cowboys in the Movies

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

This amusing compilation represents the intersection of western country music and Hollywood with a survey of classic cowboy songs recorded between 1930 and 1949. The roster of handsome, macho, and down-home vocal talent is really impressive, as are the instrumentalists, including several fine steel guitarists. Old-timer Ken Maynard is said to have been the first cowboy to sing in the movies. His "Cowboy's Lament" sounds a lot like an Irish folk ballad. Bluebird recording artists Bill Boyd & His Cowboy Ramblers serve up authentic Western swing in the form of "Goin' Back to My Texas Home." Boyd, not to be confused with William Boyd (aka Hopalong Cassidy), also appeared in B movies, as did Eddie Dean. There are particularly fine contributions from Tommy Duncan with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys; Wesley Tuttle with Merle Travis & the Coonhunters, and Merle Travis with Shug Fisher & His Ranchmen; accordionist and flashy dresser Pee Wee King and Ray Whitley & His Six-Bar Cowboys; funny Frankie Marvin (who worked closely with and played steel guitar for Gene Autry) and Carson J. Robison who pursues new horizons in austerity with "There's a Bridle Hangin' on the Wall." Two guys bearing the same nickname present markedly different styles: Tex Williams became famous for his snappy "That's What I Like About the West," closely based on a similar song about the South penned by Phil Harris. Tex Ritter had a homier, more comforting approach that is well represented by the two songs heard here and by his famous contribution to the soundtrack of High Noon (what a pity that one wasn't included!) On the unbearably handsome and wholesome side of things there's Gene Autry (with and without Smiley Burnette), Roy Rogers (born Leonard Slye and also known briefly as Dick Weston), the Sons of the Pioneers (with charter member Leonard Slye), John "Dusty" King & His Range Busters, and whistlin' Jimmy Wakely and His Cowboy Band. Rex Allen is considered to have been the last of the singing B movie cowboys, a fine musician who simply concentrated on making records as television began to dominate U.S. pop culture. Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis, best remembered as the composer of "You Are My Sunshine," also appeared in films and therefore fits nicely in this compilation. Two not-so-nice individuals heard here are Johnny Bond, who jokes about rendering his obese gal and selling the lard, and the notorious Spade Cooley, a Roy Rogers lookalike who accused his wife of having the hots for Roy Rogers and then brutally stomped her to death. Proving once again that all music is about the human condition, first and foremost.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:05
2 2:26
3 2:28
4 2:36
5 2:48
6 2:49
7
3:00
8
3:06
9 3:28
10 2:13
11 2:56
12 3:11
13
3:08
14 3:19
15 3:08
16 2:55
17 2:31
18 2:59
19 3:14
20 2:46
21 2:44
22 3:04
23 2:33
24 2:42
25 2:44
blue highlight denotes track pick