Jimmy Wakely

The Jimmy Wakely Christmas Collection

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Jimmy Wakely Collectors Edition contains a dozen 1940s sides by one of the last men to join the ranks of the movies' singing cowboys. Wakely's sound is less ornate than that of Gene Autry, his idol from the same period -- Autry was already moving in the direction of popular music, while Wakely was still evolving a sound of his own. Most of the songs are sentimental ballads: "(Take Me Back to My) Boots and Saddle," a cowboy movie theme if there ever was one, is the best song here, and nothing else would seem out of place in one of Wakely's movies, except his cover of Kokomo Arnold's "Milk Cow Blues" and his own jaunty "Oklahoma City Blues," which are effective accounts of life's joys and troubles and add some extra spark to the collection. Wakely, whose own band included future country star Johnny Bond, was a good judge of talent and had been in backing bands for any number of stars before hitting it big himself. He gets first-rate backing here from Pete Martinez on steel guitar and lead guitarist Jack Rivers (author of this album's "Don't Lay the Blame on Me," a good Western swing style number) -- their playing on "In the Hills of Wyoming," guitars echoing Wakely's phrasings on the chorus, is delightful. Wakely's first hit, "I'm Sending You Red Roses," isn't here, and some of the sound quality is a little rough -- the sources on this collection weren't perfect -- but otherwise, this is a good representation of Wakely's early output.

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