The Sons of the Pioneers

Songs of the Prairie

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The title of this stunning five-CD set is a bit misleading, for it contains gospel, Civil War, blues, square dance, and classic (19th century) popular tunes, as well as cowboy songs. And it's an extraordinary addition to the Sons of the Pioneers' output, 151 transcriptions done for Standard Radio of Los Angeles, between 1934 and 1936, the prime early years in the group's history -- it's as though 151 Beatles songs from their first year of existence had suddenly turned up -- and these have almost all been unheard for more than 60 years. The first four discs offer Sons of the Pioneers as a quartet, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Len Slye, and Hugh Farr in their first flourish of success, beginning in August of 1934. The performances here are different from, and usually more spirited than, the group's Decca recordings. "Way Out There" is a number that the group cut commercially several times over as its lineup changed, but it never sounded fresher than the version here. Another joy of this set is the spotlight given to Hugh Farr -- the violinist is showcased in a series of instrumentals, including "Milenburg Joys," "Fire in the Mountains," and "Whistlin' Rufus." And then there is the treat of the fourth and fifth discs, which feature the five-man group lineup, with guitar virtuoso Karl Farr; all of a sudden, the group's playing rises to the level of its singing, from impressive to downright dazzling as the Farr brothers become a pair of dual sparkplugs in the instrumental mix. Some tracks are in slightly rough condition, but considering that these discs, according to the contracts under which they were licensed, were supposed to be destroyed at the end of their licensing term, just having them around to hear is something close to miraculous.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:57
2
2:24
3
2:56
4 3:03
5
2:41
6 2:27
7 2:13
8 2:50
9 3:14
10
2:30
11 3:14
12 1:51
13 2:16
14 2:24
15 1:17
16 1:34
17 2:00
18 2:07
19 2:16
20 1:13
21
2:16
22 2:49
23 2:52
24 4:11
25 1:59
26 2:04
27 2:04
28 2:45
29
3:09
30
2:40
31 2:37

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:08
2 2:45
3 2:20
4 3:05
5 2:57
6 2:31
7 2:54
8 2:48
9 2:26
10
2:33
11 3:43
12 2:04
13
2:45
14
3:05
15 2:18
16 2:50
17 3:55
18
2:56
19
1:27
20 3:59
21 1:59
22 2:15
23 3:01
24 2:40
25
2:26
26 2:50
27 3:29
28 2:02

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:53
2 3:31
3 2:55
4 3:56
5 2:23
6 2:24
7 3:07
8 2:30
9 2:42
10 2:57
11 3:49
12 1:29
13 1:50
14 3:03
15 2:17
16 1:44
17 1:59
18 2:14
19
1:43
20 1:56
21 2:45
22 2:03
23 1:34
24 2:30
25 4:08
26
1:36
27 4:04
28 1:44
29 2:15

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
1:44
2
3:41
3 2:17
4 1:54
5 2:17
6 1:38
7 1:37
8
2:05
9 1:52
10 2:06
11 1:53
12
3:01
13 2:07
14 2:51
15 3:00
16 2:05
17 2:36
18 4:06
19 2:40
20 1:08
21 3:14
22 3:23
23 1:56
24 2:58
25 3:18
26 1:53
27 2:28
28 3:04
29 1:28
30 3:07
31 2:34

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:46
2 3:09
3 2:47
4 1:14
5
2:30
6
2:28
7
1:24
8 3:15
9 2:41
10 1:03
11 3:01
12 1:44
13 1:48
14 2:31
15 3:03
16 1:29
17 3:14
18
2:05
19 1:48
20 2:00
21 3:44
22 1:33
23 2:51
24 3:13
25 0:57
26 1:38
27 2:43
28
2:40
29 2:30
30 2:40
31 2:33
32 2:07
blue highlight denotes track pick