Various Artists

Swingbillies: Hillbilly and Western Swing

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The Modern label is most known for the blues, R&B, and rock & roll it recorded in the 1940s and 1950s. But it did record or lease some hillbilly and Western swing, mostly in the late '40s, and as late as 1953. Swingbillies brings together 28 such recordings from 1947-1953, a dozen of them previously unissued. There are some names here and there that might excite flickers of recognition from those not immersed in the mid-20th century Western swing world, like Jimmy Bryant, Cliff Bruner, Link Davis, and Chuck Guillory. Yet for the most part this is the work of obscure musicians, and as a sampler of hillbilly/Western swing from the era goes, it's decent though not upper-crust. Some of the wacky humor found in much of the Western swing era is evident in cuts like Rocky Morgan and His Triple R Boys' "You Can't Rope a Steer in a Taxi" and Ted Shelton and His Bryan Country Boys' "Lover Boy" (with its chorus "I broke her heart, and she broke my jaw"), while humor of a far more risque bent rears its head in Homer Clemons's "Little Beaver" and "Operation Blues." Overall it might be more amiable than innovative, with plenty of the fiddles, steel, boogie, and laconic vocals so integral to the genre. Some of the numbers are more ear-catching than others, with Cliff Bruner & the Texas Wanderers' "San Antonio Blues" putting more of an earthy shuffle grit into the proceedings than some others did; Bryant showing off his excellent jazzy electric guitar style on "Holiday for Guitar"; and Papa Cairo showing more of a Cajun influence on "Kooche Kooche."

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