Song of the Cowboys/Iron Mountain & Other Songs

Peter La Farge

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Song of the Cowboys/Iron Mountain & Other Songs Review

by Bruce Eder

These two albums, originally released by Folkways, fit well together as collections of cowboy songs and more personal songs of the West. Unfortunately, Songs of the Cowboys, which makes up the majority of the material here, isn't nearly as interesting as his two albums devoted to Native American-focused material, As Long as the Grass Shall Grow or On the Warpath (both issued together on a separate CD already). The familiarity of the songs (apart from notable exceptions like "Sirey Peaks") makes the stuff less "special," and his attempt to create an authentic sound runs into the reality that we are hearing it today -- we'd never "hear" it the same way as audiences, say, around 1920, before the advent of attempts to make cowboy songs into popular music. La Farge makes no concessions to popular music in his singing, accompanied by nothing but his own guitar, and these could almost pass for authentic field recordings of the late '20s. The Iron Mountain songs are much more personal (including the biographical title track) and are also more interesting, most notably due to the inclusion of songs such as the very funny "Marijuana Blues," as well as several other, similar numbers ("Snowbird Blues") that show off other sides of La Farge's playing and singing, and allow him to stretch out in ways unique to his recording career.

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